After a man tried taking ownership of a Three-Self Church building in Henan Province’s Tongbai county, authorities do nothing except protect the aggressor.
For nearly the last 20 years, Christians in Wucheng town of Tongbai county have been worshipping at a government-approved Protestant Three-Self church in Chenzhuang village, after they raised funds to purchase real estate for a church from a group leader, named Ruan Yingxin. They also renovated the church twice. The property rights then belonged to the church, which was also in compliance with regulations making it an establishment for religious activities.
But then, in September, Ruan Yingxin decided all of a sudden that the church, in fact, belonged to him, and he tried to take it by force. He repeatedly chased away church-goers and routinely had the electricity turned off, forcing church-members to leave the sanctuary. When they’d done so, Ruan Yingxin put a lock on the entrance and refused to allow congregants to enter, even though it was their church and they had paid for it.
When the Christians took the matter to the police, requesting that local authorities help resolve the issue, the town government secretary, surnamed He, always responded by saying, “This requires mediation, so we will go have a look at some time,” as a way of doing nothing; even when authorities did eventually stop by the church, they merely took a few people to the entrance and left without saying or doing anything.
According to one Christian who wished to remain anonymous, this August, the secretary of the town government took two officials along with Ruan Yingxin, seven people in all, to the church. The group forced their way into the building, using a saw to cut down the cross. The secretary declared the action an “order from the central authorities, so, comply and do not resist.” It was after this incident that Ruan Yingxin started trying to take over the church.
After all, according to Bitter Winter’s anonymous source, Ruan Yingxin is being supported by the local government. As a result, the believers were forced to enlist the help of the Christian Association of Tongbai county, which, on September 23, sent Lei Debin, a leader from another Three-Self church, to help mediate the situation.
According to eyewitnesses, Lei Debin asked Ruan Yingxin to open the door of the church and restore its electricity. Ruan Yingxin refused. Lei Debin and another Christian then decided to turn the electricity on themselves. At which point, Ruan Yingxin grabbed a knife used for splitting bamboo and swung it two times at Lei Debin’s head, who then held his head and tried to dodge the attacks, but Ruan Yingxin chased him. Lei Debin ran about 200 meters but was eventually knocked down by Ruan Yingxin. Lei Debin suffered multiple wounds to his body and hands, including having the bone in his palm fractured. Others eventually restrained Ruan Yingxin, but not before Lei Debin was seriously injured. He’s still recovering in hospital.
Church members reported the assault to the police, who sent three officers to the scene of the attack. They didn’t arrest the assailant but merely questioned standers-by.
“The government has become a haven for bullies,” one Christian said.
Indeed, the town government secretary He said the assault case, plus the ownership of the church in Chenzhuang village, which members are still locked out of, is a minor dispute that must be handled in a conventional manner – in other words, in a gradual way that never goes anywhere.
And the church leader’s question remains unanswered: “Since when is trying to kill someone a ‘minor dispute’?”
Reported by Jiang Tao