Less than two weeks after a Chinese Christian woman was killed trying to defend her church from government confiscation, local authorities have ruled that the disputed land where the incident took place belongs to the church and its pastor for use as a religious site.
On April 14, horrified congregants looked on as two demolition workers bulldozed the pastor of Beitou Church and his wife into a ditch. The pastor, Li Jiangong, was able to dig himself out, but his wife, Ding Cuimei, were buried alive and did not survive.
Police have detained the two workers in the incident, which took place in Zhumadian in central China’s Henan province.
China Aid, a non-governmental organization that advocates for religious liberty in China, said on April 25 that a special task force consisting of the township government, the local ministry of land and resources and a village administrative committee declared that the land is the property of Li Jiangong and Beitou Church. A report issued by the task force declares that no individual or other organization should claim land from the church, and designates the site for religious use.
Despite the victory for his church, Li Jiangong is concerned about the lack of action regarding his wife’s death. Though two members of the demolition crew were criminally detained at the time of the incident, authorities have released no information regarding their possible charges. The investigative bureau has reportedly taken no further action on the case.
Bob Fu, president of told Catholic News Agency that Christianity has become a “major target” in culture and is treated as “a political and security threat to the regime,” he said.
“Bulldozing and burying alive Ding Cuimei, a peaceful and devout Christian woman, was a cruel, murderous act,” Fu said in a previous statement from China Aid.
A government-backed company had sent the demolition crew to the site after a local developer wished to take over the property, China Aid said.
One member of the crew allegedly said, “Bury them alive for me. … I will be responsible for their lives.”
Fu told CNA that the situation for Christians in China has changed under President Xi Jinping, who took office in 2013.
Under the previous presidential administrations of Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, Fu said, “Officially, Christianity was not overtly regarded as a national security threat.” Suspicion and crackdowns instead focused on unregistered churches in both Protestant and Catholic churches. Now, even registered churches have faced increased scrutiny and persecution. Church leaders at government-sanctioned churches have faced heavy criminal sentences. “Christians, including Catholics, have been asked to change into a different version of belief under the banner of ‘Sinicization of religion’ in order to make Christianity compatible with socialism,” Fu said.