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Diocese land deal protest turns violent

Security guard's beating hospitalizes 60-year-old

Diocese land deal protest turns violent
Parishioners in Leshan demand payment for diocesan land reporter, Leshan

January 29, 2013

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A dispute over land revenue between parishioners in Leshan city and a local construction firm turned violent on Monday, with two parishioners hospitalized.

About 100 protesters gathered on Monday afternoon and early Tuesday morning outside a construction site to demand that the Renshou Sanyou Company pay money owed to the diocese for land that was sold to build a residential complex.

Protesters said the company had ignored previous demands for payment and tried to disperse them by sending out a security guard, who allegedly threw bricks and assaulted several in the crowd.

Two parishioners are now in hospital, with one – a woman in her 60s – in critical condition, according to protesters. 

Father Joseph Tong Hengjiu, who supervised the land deal with Renshou Sanyou, told that the local government had given Leshan diocese more than 13,333 sq ms of land to build its new bishop’s house. 

The diocese used a quarter of the allotted land and sold the remainder to Renshou Sanyou for 58 million yuan (US$9.3 million). The company agreed to pay the amount by August 2011 but postponed the due date until May last year following mediation by the city government. 

Fr Tong said payment has still not been received, though the company has pressed ahead with its residential project, one building of which was due to be handed over to buyers on Tuesday.

“They will earn hundreds of millions of yuan, but they are unwilling to pay what they owe our diocese,” he said, adding that the diocese’s own construction plans had to be halted for lack of funds. 

After hearing about the delinquent payment following the release last week of a diocesan financial report, parishioners marched to the construction site to demand payment.

In the wake of the violence, five diocesan priests joined protesters on Tuesday while officials from the Religious Affairs and Public Security bureaus opened an investigation into the alleged attack on protesters and sought to arrange a meeting between the diocese and the company. 

Fr Tong said local priests and parishioners would not be scared off by the threat of violence and would continue to safeguard the “legitimate rights and interests of the Church.”

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