ZHUMADIAN (AsiaNews): Ding Cuimei, the wife of an Protestant pastor, Reverend Li Jiangong, from an unregistered Church in Zhumadian, Henan, died of suffocation after she was buried alive while trying to defend their Beitou Church building from demolition.
Her husband, who was also buried, managed to survive.
The police have opened an investigation and arrested two people from the demolition team, but did not reveal any details about the case.
According to China Aid, a non-government organisation that monitors the situation of Christians in China, the homicide took place on April 14. Reverend Li and Ding tried to stop the bulldozers sent by a government-backed firm to tear down the church, by standing in front of the machines.
A developer had offered to buy the land on which the church stood, but wanted the building to be demolished. When the two church caretakers stood their ground, a member of the demolition team said, “Bury them alive for me. I will be responsible for their lives.”
Subsequently, a bulldozer shoved Reverend Li and Ding into pit that had already been dug and covered their bodies with soil. Crying for help, Reverend Li was able to dig his way free, but Ding suffocated before she could be rescued.
Local Christians have complained about the tardy pace of the attempted rescue, as well as the attitude of the police, who seem unwilling to deal with the case.
Reverend Li himself is under pressure from the authorities, who fear negative publicity after his wife’s callous death.
Since the Three Rectification and One Demolition Campaign was launched in the southern province of Zhejiang, at least 1,700 crosses have been torn down. Scores of churches have also been demolished in other provinces, including Hebei, Hubei and Henan.
In Zhejiang, the campaign against the crosses and Christian buildings began in early 2013, when local Party boss, Xia Baolong, deemed that Wenzhou City’s skyline had too many crosses.
Many Christians believe that the real reason behind the campaign is a desire to reduce the impact and influence of Christian communities, both official and unofficial, on Chinese society, which has seen a dramatic rise in conversions.