China Aid, a Texas-based group, reported that on Monday a house church leader and his wife were buried alive by the Chinese government because they interfered with government officials destroying their church in Zhumadian, Henan province.
On April 14, a government-backed company dispatched personnel to bulldoze province, after a local developer wished to take control of the church’s valuable property. Li Jiangong, the person in charge of the church, and his wife, Ding Cuimei, stepped in front of the machinery in an attempt to stop the demolition.
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Subsequently, a bulldozer shoved Li and Ding into a pit and covered their bodies with soil. Crying for help, Li was able to dig his way free, but Ding suffocated before she could be rescued.
Local authorities said the two perpetrators were detained, but the Chinese official with whom China Aid spoke would not disclose whether or not the government charged them with committing a crime.
China Aid president Bob Fu said, “Bulldozing and burying alive Ding Cuimei, a peaceful and devout Christian woman, was a cruel, murderous act.
“This case is a serious violation of the rights to life, religious freedom and rule of law. The Chinese authorities should immediately hold those murderers accountable and take concrete measures to protect the religious freedom of this house church’s members.”
The Christian Post added:
Christians in China have been heavily targeted throughout the past couple of years by the ruling Communist Party due to their rapidly increasing numbers. Although Chinese officials claims that church demolitions and the forced removal of church rooftop crosses are connected with building code violations, human rights activists and other Christian leaders have said it is clear persecution against a religious group.
The Washington Times reports that Chinese officials have created an environment where,
Christians must limit themselves to “normal religious activity” at a state-backed church, where party dogma trumps religious doctrine and where proselytizing is forbidden. Local officials decide what “normal” means — and what is legal.
The Associated Press reported that since early 2014, officials in Zhejiang have removed crosses from roughly 400 churches because they “violated building codes.” Following these actions, in May, 2015, Chinese officials released a “draft” 63-paged-list of regulations of “religious structures” in the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang. A pastor from the province, Zheng Leguo, who now lives in the U.S., told The Guardian,
“The authorities have attached great importance to this religious symbol.
“This means no more prominent manifestation of Christianity in the public sphere.”
“To continue to forcefully remove and ban the cross on the rooftop of the church buildings demonstrates the Chinese regime’s determination to contain the rapid growth of Christianity in China,” China Aid’s Bob Fu added.
Despite increased persecution, Christianity is growing in China. According to The Washington Times, foreign scholars calculate there are roughly 67-100 million Christians in China, and that number is expected to increase to 250 million Christians by 2030. (Official government numbers are lower; the Chinese government estimates there are 23 million Protestants and 5 million Catholics).