Rome (AsiaNews) Public security authorities in Xian have opened an investigation on the brutal beating committed against 16 nuns who tried to save a school from demolition and have taken 11 suspects into custody. Meanwhile, one of the nuns, who risks permanent paralysis as a result of the assault, is recovering from lumbar vertebra surgery. The government has offered to pay for all medical expenses.
Last November 23, 40 "thugs" brutally beat 16 Franciscan missionary nuns who tried to stand in the way of the destruction of the diocese's School of the Rosary.
As a result of the attack against the nuns, Sr Dong Jianian, age 41, suffered a fraction to her spinal column; another nun was blinded in one eye: they were hospitalized along with 3 other nuns. Sr Dong Jianian is currently recovering from a three-hour operation, while there is no chance of recovery for Sr Cheng Jing's (age 34) injured eye. Sr Zan Hongfang (34) was discharged from hospital with her broken shoulder in a plaster cast.
Initially, government officials had done everything to cover up the incident: the police responded late to the sisters' call for help; news of the violence was censored from newspapers and web-sites. The incident did garner, however, international attention. The Bishops' Conference of the United States even wrote a critical letter to the Chinese Embassy in Washington. Thanks to this and to the spread of news locally by word-of-mouth, text messaging and e-mail government authorities decided to take action by opening an investigation and detaining 11 of the 40 "thugs" who had assaulted the nuns. According to initial reports, the group of young men has been enlisted by the Zhaoshen Investment Company, the company that had bought the property from government officials and wanted to settle the matter through violence. Before the attack against the nuns, some of the assailants said they had been "sent by the government education district."
The school, which the Church already owned, had been confiscated during the Cultural Revolution. The building had been empty for several years and the government, in breach of Chinese law, sold it to a construction company rather than returning it to its rightful owners.
In the wake of the attack, the government had announced its intention to compensate the 5 seriously-injured nuns with 3000 yuan. But that amount was not even enough to cover the hospital stay of one alone, without counting Sr Dong's operation.
Many Christian communities and Catholic seminaries have begun raising funds to help the nuns. Several days ago, the government announced that the Education Department which had been responsible for selling the school would take charge of all medical expenses for all the nuns.
Over past days, Monsignor Anthony Li Duan, Archbishop of Xian, discharged from hospital where he had been undergoing cancer treatment, made his way by wheelchair to visit the sisters in hospital. For the return of the land and school which already belonged to the diocese the government has asked the Church of Xian to pay 6.5 million yuan. Monsignor Li Duan has agreed, even though many priests and members of the faithful have spoken out against the proposal as an outrage that the Church has no choice but to accept.