Nearly two weeks after a Chinese pastor and his wife were buried alive defending their church from destruction, local authorities have ruled in favor of the Protestant house church’s claim to its land.
After a local business wanted to take over the property that Beitou Church in Zhumadian sat on, a government-backed demolition crew was sent to destroy the church. And when the pastor, Li Jiangong, and his wife, Ding Cuimei, stepped in front of a bulldozer, it didn’t stop.
“Bury them alive for me,” a member of the demolition team said, according to China Aid which reported both the tragic incident and the ensuing legal victory. “I will be responsible for their lives.”
The couple were shoved into a pit and covered with dirt, according to China Aid.
Li manage to free himself. But before he could dig his wife out, Ding suffocated.
The demolition crew is being detained while their actions are being investigated, the local police station told China Aid.
While criminal charges are still pending, a government investigation has concluded that the land belongs to the church.
“This is a definite legal victory for the church,” stated China Aid. “The task force concluded the investigation [by] stating … that pastor Li Jiangong's church has the sole authority for the usage of the land as a religious site and should belong to the church for use. It rules no individual or other organization should claim the land from the church.”
"While we are glad to see and commend the local authorities under international pressure acted swiftly and fairly to resolve the church's land with this right decision, we are still deeply concerned about the justice for this family of martyr which is still not done," stated Bob Fu, China Aid’s president.
The incident took place in Henan province, which has one of the largest Christian populations in East Asia. The province is west of Zhejiang province, where authorities have removed hundreds of crosses from church buildings, jailed a megachurch pastor for protesting those removals, and jailed (and then released) one of the leading legal defenders of those churches.
Also this week, Chinese president Xi Jinping gave a long-awaited speech on what China wants to do with Christianity.