China Aid Association
by Wang Zhicheng
Priest and faithful attacked with clubs and stones. Because of “gang-like” threats, since August 15 there have been no Masses or catechism classes. The former director of the PA has appropriated church property. The faithful are appealing to the slogan of Hu Jintao (“building a harmonious society”) to call for justice.
(Beijing (AsiaNews) – November 19, 2008) The faithful of the parish of Nanle have released an appeal in which they call for justice against the former head of the Patriotic Association, who is bullying the local Church, appropriating parish lands and buildings and mistreating the pastor and the faithful. The Catholics accuse her of going against Hu Jintao’s program for “building a harmonious society,” and call for the government to intervene. Nanle is a small town of 650,000 inhabitants, in Henan, almost on the border with Hebei. The Catholic community has about 2,000 faithful.
The appeal sent to AsiaNews in recent days accuses Wang Shuqin, the former director of the local Patriotic Association, who, thanks to her power and violence, has the entire community in her grasp.
Last June, Wang Shuqin, assisted by her son, who is called “a gangster,” produced a false document showing that the Patriotic Association had sold her a plot of land measuring 195 square meters, and a two-story building belonging to the parish. Thanks to her connections with the local real estate management office, she was able to transfer all of the property under her name, and immediately sold it, pocketing the profit.
The faithful say that Wang has violated the law and the rules of the religious affairs office, according to which “no individual or entity may sell, rent, or mortgage” religious property, because “it belongs to the state and is managed by the religious community.” When the priest and the faithful asked for an explanation, the woman said that she had built the building herself, with her own money.
The former director of the Patriotic Association has gone even further: she has threatened the priest and faithful with violence, and since August 15 has not permitted any Masses to be celebrated in the parish for the 2,000 faithful. The last time the priest tried to celebrate the Mass, she came with clubs and stones and began to beat the priest, injuring his back, and also destroyed the altar. Officials at the religious affairs office are also afraid of her and her son.
The faithful justify themselves in their appeal: “It is not that we are weak; it is that the priest stopped us from taking extreme action, and advised us to trust in the law.”
The powerful and conniving woman – called “savage,” “unhinged,” “insane” – has also been able to block a lawsuit that the community tried to file against her. The court met last October 20 at 2:30 in the afternoon, but the woman, together with her son, began to beat the priest and the faithful. Not even the guards were able to stop them. During the brouhaha, her son got away, and the people are asking “how it is possible for a criminal to disappear in a court of law.”
Now the people are living in terror, because Wang’s son has the reputation of being an unscrupulous person. But while the life of the community is on hold – no Masses, no catechism for the catechumens – many of the faithful “are losing trust in the religious policy” of the government. They are appealing to the idea preached by President Hu Jintao, about “building a harmonious society,” and are demanding that the central government intervene to give back the parish’s property, and remove Ms. Wang from Nanle.
Appropriations and the abuse of private property have become commonplace in China. Episodes of violence and abuse against the dioceses on the part of the Patriotic Association and the office of religious affairs are also common. In 2005, 16 sisters were beaten in Xian for trying to defend the school that they owned from demolition; during the same period, there was violence against priests and sisters in Tianjin; on many occasions, the “controllers” of the Church have had its property put into their own names and then sold it to be turned into hotels, pocketing the profits. According to information from the Holy Spirit Study Centre in Hong Kong, the property unjustly confiscated by the PA and the office of religious affairs totals about 130 billion yuan (about 13 billion euros).
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