[b]Priests, Nuns Brutally Assaulted in China[/b]
Disruption of peaceful protests highlight fragile state of religious freedom.
[i]by Xu Mei[/i]
[b]NANJING, China, December 21[/b] (Compass) Mobs attacked nuns in Xian and priests in Tianjin during the past month as the Roman Catholics peacefully tried to settle property disputes with the government.
At press time, Chinese police surrounded a group of Catholic priests and nuns who have locked themselves into the building they claim, according to Reuters. The priests reportedly claimed that the Catholic Church acquired the building in Tianjin before the Communist revolution in 1949 and that the government seized it a few years later.
In trying to force them out, police had injured several priests and sent one nun to the hospital with head wounds, a source told Reuters, adding that they had been given an ultimatum to leave by midday.
About 30 people with steel bars, sticks and bricks on December 16 had attacked a group of priests as they applied for recovery of the building, according to AsiaNews. The news service reported that police detained the clergymen, not the attackers, denying the severely beaten priests hospital care.
In their appeal, according to AsiaNews, the priests had noted that buildings confiscated under Mao Zedong should have been returned after the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976).
On November 23 in the northern city of Xian, a group of 40 people armed with wooden sticks reportedly attacked 200 nuns peacefully protesting the illegal demolition of their diocesan school.
The nuns reportedly had started a sit-in in this northern city when the mob, widely regarded to have been sent by the government, mocked and then physically attacked the nuns, shouting Kill them! Kill them!
Urgent telephone calls to the police from the nearby convent went unanswered. According to news reports, Sister Dong Jianian, 42, suffered back injuries that could permanently paralyze her; Sister Qing Jing , 34, has gone blind in one eye; and Sister Yue Xiuyin, 31, Sister Wang Maizao, 32, and Sister Zan Hongfeng, 34, suffered injuries to the chest, head, face and legs.
Having confiscated the school in 1952, the Xian municipal government recently sold it to a developer in violation of Chinese law under which the property should have been returned to its original church owners, according to news reports.
The Xian local authorities reportedly offered to sell back the property to the Catholic church for 6.5 million Yuan (about $800,000). Local Catholics regarded this as legalized theft of their own property.
On 27 November, the protest escalated when 600 Catholics reportedly marched through the city center carrying banners protesting against robbery. Two days later, the government reportedly agreed to pay compensation of 3,000 Yuan (about $270) to each injured nun and again offered to sell the property back to its rightful owners for 6.5 million Yuan.
The incident has aroused world wide condemnation. The vice-president of the European Union, Mario Mauro, raised the issue in Brussels, reportedly stating that the EU must quit basing its relations with China solely on the criteria of developing economic trade.
In Italy, 40 members of Parliament reportedly asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to protest formally against human rights violations in China. The Vatican has expressed grave concern and firmly condemned the incident in a November 30 statement. In the United States, the highest authorities in the Catholic church have written similarly to the Chinese ambassador.
The incident in Xian, a major city visited annually by millions of foreign tourists eager to view the famous terracotta warriors, highlights the fragile state of religious freedom in China. Government corruption and collusion with developers means that religious believers are often helpless to protect their legitimate rights.
Church properties in many cities are prime sites that attract the attention of officials and development companies. Days after Catholic websites began to publicize the assault on the nuns, the government reportedly imposed a total media blackout on this issue.
[i]Compass Direct Flash News is distributed as available to raise awareness of Christians worldwide who are persecuted for their faith. Articles may be reprinted by active subscribers only[/i].
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