Severe Beating of 16 Chinese Nuns Draws International Concern

Several international groups strongly condemned the reported beatings of a group of 16 nuns in China, as five of them remain hospitalized under serious condition.
( [email protected] ) Dec 04, 2005 12:35 AM EST

Several international groups strongly condemned the reported beatings of a group of 16 nuns in China, as five of them remain hospitalized under serious condition.

The attack on the nuns was first brought to light by Italy-based Catholic news agency AsiaNews on Monday, Nov. 28. According to its report, 16 nuns of the Congregation of the Franciscan Sacred Heart Missionaries in downtown of the Xian City, Shanxi Province were injured, after a group of 40 young thugs repeatedly beat them on the night of Nov. 23.

According to the Nov. 30 report, the incident of nuns being attacked has not been reported on any of the Chinese newspaper. Moreover, a Chinese Catholic website that has posted a detailed report of the incident was closed on Wednesday. Even after the site had reopened, the news was no longer available.

Nevertheless, being widely reported by foreign press, the persecution has drawn attention from international community. Chief Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls issued a statement on Wednesday condemning the attack, according to Reuters.

"The violence used in Xian against defenseless nuns can only be condemned in the strongest of terms," Navarro-Valls stated.

As the attack on the nuns comes just days after some priests were arrested in other provinces, the Vatican expressed deep concern. Navarro-Valls added in the statement that the Vatican was "very worried" because "the authorities had not yet provided an explanation for their arrest," Reuters reported.

The All Christian Union of India (ACUI), which represents all Catholic and Protestant organizations in India, also released a statement yesterday, expressing solidarity with the Church in Xian.

John Dayal, president of the All India Catholic Union (AICU), the largest and oldest organization of lay Catholics in Asia said, "The Indian Catholic community condemns the attacks perpetrated against the Catholic Church and its members in the People¡¦s Republic of China," according to an statement from AICU obtained by AsiaNews.

Furthermore, as the statement reported, Dayal called on the United Nations, groups working for civil freedoms at international level, and the Indian government to take actions so that "Beijing understand such actions against freedom of worship do not behoove a great nation like China seeking global recognition in the economic sphere."

Even in Italy, AsiaNews reported that M.P. Maurizio Lupi and other 39 parliamentarians addressed an urgent question to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ask the Italian government "to protest formally" against human rights violations in China. Also, he urged the government to take steps "at the international level to defend against violations of religious freedom."

According to AsiaNews, the attack on the nuns was triggered by a land dispute between the convent and the authorities. The building where the attack occurred was actually the location of the "School of the Rosary," an elementary school run by the nuns but belongs to the state since the Cultural Revolution.

Most recently, the city government sold the building to a company that wants to demolish it to build industrial units and other buildings. Some 200 nuns therefore have been staging a sit-in protest in the building for several days to protect it from being demolished, AsiaNews reported.

According to a source from the U.S.-based Chinese persecution watchdog China Aid, the Nov. 23 attack took place when some nuns were trying to defend the building from being destroyed by officials. Forty uniformed young men armed with sticks started beating the nuns. Most of the wounded nuns suffered eye injuries and/or broken legs.

Currently, five nuns remain hospitalized while another twelve nuns are in convalescence.