International Christian Concern | Monday, December 4, 2017
International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on the morning of November 21, more than 100 government officers in uniform raided the Beimen (North Gate) Catholic Church in the city of Ji'an in Jiangxi Province. They tore religious posters, shattered religious icons and statues, and injured four elderly Catholics who were defending the church.
These officers from City Urban Administrative and Law Enforcement Bureau, commonly known as Chengguan, are part of city management agencies responsible for handling daily aspects of urban life. They are notorious for their use of violence and capricious crackdowns. In this instance, they were employed to confiscate the church property, although they had no legal basis for doing so.
According to UCA News, Bishop John Baptist Li Suguang of Jiangxi asked priests to spread news of the raid to the public. The next day, priests and approximately 70 Catholics from the area marched with banners to Ji'an City government offices and demanded apologies from the authorities and that those responsible for the violence be punished.
Fearful of the situation getting out of hand, the Ji'an government has agreed to negotiate with the church, investigate the use of violence by Chengguan, and compensate the injured. Priests already began negotiation with the government on November 27.
After 1949, the Communist Party has illegally occupied a large amount of church property and religious venues throughout China. According to the document enacted by the State Council in 1980, government agencies shall return all the property to the churches and religious groups. In reality, that rarely happens.
A wealthy French Catholic widow donated the land, as well as an ancillary building, rectory, convent, hospital, and farmland to Ji'an North Gate Church in the late 19thcentury. Ji'an's local Press and Publication Bureau of Culture, Radio and Television has sought to occupy the church for its use, but only successfully occupied the ancillary building after rounds of negotiation with local Catholics.
Ironically, on September 10, the priests of North Gate Church held a public cross installation ceremony and the news was even reported on Chinese Catholic website Xinde Net, as vetted by the government. Yet two months later, the government took brutal action to claim something they don't own.
In a prayer request published on a Chinese website, the author asked Catholics to "pray for the Lord to watch over the faithful there so that they will be treated in a fair and just manner. Based on the principle of rule of law, we will also use non-violent, peaceful means to fight for what we should get and what was ours originally."
Gina Goh, ICC's Regional Manager, said, "While it is not uncommon for the Chinese government to illegally occupy confiscated church property meant to be returned to the church according to State Council, the use of force and menace against innocent believers is barbaric and contradicts rule of law which President Xi Jinping has faithfully promoted. The Ji'an government should investigate the thug-like behavior of its workers and return all property to the faithful of North Gate Church, where it belongs."
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Publication date: December 4, 2017