Catholics in Taiyuan Diocese have stepped up their appeal to the Beijing government for claiming back their properties, following the brutal beatings of some priests.
According to a letter of appeal dated Dec. 18 and obtained by the Italy-based Catholic newspaper Asianews, "Catholics in dioceses of Taiyuan and Yuci demand the return of property seized by the Tianjin local government in violation of laws established by the national government."
The petition was sent to the Tianjin Municipal Government. A copy was sent to the United Front Ministry, the central government’s Religious Affairs Bureau, Shanxi province’s United Front Department, and Shanxi province’s Religious Affairs Bureau, according to AsiaNews.
The statement came after a brutal beating of a group of nuns and priests happened on Dec. 16 in Tianjin. The 48 priests and 2 nuns are from the Diocese of Taiyuan, Shanxi Province. They arrived in Tianjin on Dec. 15 to lobby for the return of several buildings located on the harbor front, which belong to the diocese, AsiaNews reported.
Report says that the buildings were originally belonged to the Diocese but were confiscated during the Cultural Revolution. Also, the government has not returned the properties to the Diocese as promised.
According to the statement, "In 1993, the Tianjin Real Estate Department issued Regulations Nos 392, 102 and 103, whereby real estate belonging to religious communities had to be returned by July 1, 1993. This would give the communities the necessary means to support themselves."
In the statement, the Catholic communities in Taiyuan Diocese also accused the government for violating the new Religious Affairs Regulations of China that came into effect on Mar. 1 this year, which stated, "The Law safeguards places of worship and real estate legitimately used by religious communities. It safeguards property and the legitimate use of houses, buildings, structures and all properties and incomes therewith."
"No organization or individual can seize, hinder, illegally divide up, damage or place seals, requisition, restrict, expropriate or offend the legitimately owned property of religious communities or their places of worship. No one can damage archaeological artifacts that belong or are otherwise used by religious communities."
Prior to the issue of the statement, the Diocese of Taiyuan has sent several letters to the Tianjin Real Estate Department and sent representatives to raise the issue with the religious properties administrators, yet all of the complaints have fallen on deaf ears, AsiaNews reported.
Therefore, the priests and nuns staged a sit-in in front of Tianjin’s city hall to stop the move on Dec. 15. On Dec. 16, they retreated to the confiscated buildings that are currently empty, but some 30 thugs arrived on the scene with steel bars, sticks and bricks and severely beat up the defenseless priests, according to AsiaNews.
The beating has just unveiled by the press yesterday. AsiaNews reported that instead of pursing those who were responsible for the attack, the local police took the priests to the police station to question them after the beating. The priests therefore have decided to stay in Tianjin until justice is done and until a fair solution is found to the confiscation question.
The Catholic communities in Taiyuan urged the government to take action to find a solution for the land dispute, as stating in the statement, "Finding a solution to the ownership issue of Church properties in Tianjin will enable our communities to achieve self-sufficiency, promote their integration into the wider society and help build a harmonious society [as envisaged by President Hu Jintao]."
Similar dispute was also raised between the local authorities and the Catholic community in the neighboring province of Shaanxi. In the city of Xian, 16 defenseless nuns were severely beaten up by some 40 thugs in late November when they were trying to protect their property from being demolished.