Authorities in Anhui Province use force against people who try to prevent demolitions of their worship venues.
by Lu An
On May 18, the Shucheng county government in the eastern province of Anhui sent more than 20 personnel and police officers to demolish a Buddhist temple, which was declared “a dilapidated building.” Because no official warning has been issued ahead of the demolition, temple members asked the government’s team to present some documentation. In response, a female official seized a “wooden fish”—a Chinese percussion instrument often used in Buddhist rituals—from one of the temple’s monks and destroyed it. But when one of the protesting women, who was filming the scene, asked the official to refrain from violence, police officers severely beat her.
“Three officers pressed her to the ground, hitting her collarbones until she lost consciousness, and the phone was destroyed,” an eyewitness recounted to Bitter Winter. “Other law enforcement officers didn’t stop them.”
Police officers also attacked and injured a monk in his 70s for waving his walking stick in front of officials. The man was accused of “assaulting the police.” “Officers pushed him to the ground, and an official took away his walking stick and drove him out of the temple,” another eyewitness said.
Some believers posted the footage of the temple being demolished online and submitted a petition to higher authorities. But they were told that they were “damaging the government’s image” and ordered to stop petitioning and sharing demolition images.
On July 2, the government of Dangtu county, administered by the prefecture-level city of Ma’anshan, dispatched over 100 police officers to demolish a folk religion temple in one of its villages. The venue was built with over 700,000 RMB (about $ 98,000) raised by villagers.
“Special police officers cordoned off the temple, preventing us from approaching,” a villager remembered. “They then smashed the lock to get inside and demolished the temple after dragging out the eight elderly believers protecting it.”
A week before the demolition, over 60 villagers organized to take turns protecting the temple 24 hours a day. Village officials repeatedly harassed them.
“A township official told us that the temple had to be demolished regardless of our objections, and even if there are casualties,” the villager added. “The temple was demolished after eight days of resistance. We could do nothing against the government’s draconian measures and ruthless behavior.”
In March, Mamiao town’s government in Anqing city’s Huaining county dispatched over 200 personnel to demolish a local Buddhist temple, without informing the temple’s director and villagers to avoid public protests. A government employee who took part in the demolition explained that temples are being demolished to implement a national policy.