CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 16 June 2018

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Clashes as church land is sold off by government

Hong Kong (UCAN): An 800 square metre plot of disputed land next to the Immaculate Conception Church in Hangzhou in Zhejiang province, China, was sold at auction for commercial use by government authorities on May 28, following clashes between Catholics and security officials.
 
The day before the auction, dozens of security guards, police and public security officers clashed with Catholics on the site, a source reported. 
 
Hundreds staged a prayer rally on May 28 after the diocese called on them to pray for a proper solution to the land dispute. 
 
Another Church source said that more than a dozen policemen were still stationed at the site on May 29, while local authorities sent personnel to sit at the church’s office and entrance all day long.
 
The Immaculate Conception Church originally owned 1,500 square metres of land containing a church-run primary school, a minor seminary and a study room, the source said.
 
The government occupied the land during the Cultural Revolution and a school was built.
 
The source said the church, the Hangzhou Bureau of Religious Affairs, the school authority and the demolition office had been discussing ownership of the land. 
 
However, in 1980, China’s State Council issued a document urging local authorities to return all occupied real estate originally belonging to religious groups. 
 
It was hoped that about 800 square meters of the land would be reserved for church use. When authorities had failed to return the land by 1991, the late Bishop Zhu Fengqing of Hangzhou, complained to authorities without success.
 
The government said it would not return the land but would pay compensation of two million yuan ($2.44 million). However, the land is believed to be worth 200 million yuan ($244 million) so the offer was refused, but the land was auctioned off before the problem was resolved. It was reported that developers surrounded the site and another source said authorities were reluctant to return it, claiming the Church had given it to them of its own accord. 

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