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Tortured Chinese Catholic mother kept her faith

She survived for only three years after being tortured by Red Guards
Tortured Chinese Catholic mother kept her faith

Many Catholic churches in China were destroyed by followers of communist leader Mao Zedong during the Cultural Revolution. (Photo supplied by Lang Tao Shan )

Published: July 20, 2018 05:07 AM GMT
Updated: August 16, 2018 09:35 AM GMT

In Chaoyang City of China's Liaoning Province, bordering with Inner Mongolia, many elderly people still remember Teresa Xia.

During the tumultuous 1966-76 Cultural Revolution she was among millions of victims of vindictive communist revolutionary zeal.

Augustine Han, Xia's eldest son, tried to be calm when talking about his mother, but his voice trembled.

While nearly 50 years have passed since the faithful Catholic's death, the pain of what happened to her abides.

Xia was born in 1920 into a family that had converted to Catholicism and studied at a church-run school where she learned the catechism espousing church doctrine and played the role of the Holy Mother during Eucharistic processions.

She later graduated from high school and, following some tertiary study, married the man who was to be Augustine Han's father.

During the so-called 'Four Clean-ups Movement' unleashed by Mao Zedong in 1963 that targeted people branded as reactionaries, Xia was forced to attended propaganda classes.

The Cultural Revolution, which lasted for a decade, began two years later.

During this period, Catholics secretly recited prayers at home, however, Xia dared to recite prayers openly, including for people who were dying.

Her faith drew the ire of communist hardliners. 

On one occasion Xia and four others were made to kneel on a wooden platform at a school in front of commune members wearing symbolic high 'dunces' hats with placards on their chests denouncing them. They were subsequently beaten.

On Sept. 6, 1966, after being detained, Xia continued to proclaim her religious faith when questioned by members of the Red Guards, a mass paramilitary student movement.

Augustine Han said that the interrogators used the wooden legs of a chair and a desk to beat his mother while verbally abusing her.

When Xia continued to profess her belief in God, the guards burned her mouth with a candle, causing her lips and tongue to swell and she was never able to speak again.

On the morning of Sept. 7, Xia was carried home. She died in the spring of 1969 at the age of 50.

Maria Zhou, a close relative, recalled that Xia expressed the Lord's love through good deeds.

She would wash clothes for the sick and give food to the poor even when her own family did not have enough to eat, Zhou said.

Many Catholics were forced to deny their faith, but Xia never did, Zhou added.

Zhou recalled that her father's eldest sister was a nun and that her elderly aunt was a consecrated virgin living at home. Their heads were shaved and they were forced to kneel on stones as a form of punishment and humiliation.

Even though their beaten heads were so swollen that children were scared by their appearance, the elderly women joked about not having felt pain while being assaulted because paralysis had set in.

Another Catholic, Ann Jia, aged more than 90, said that during the Cultural Revolution churches were confiscated and priests moved away.

Jia also recalled that Zhao Youmin (also known as Zhao Yimin), who was consecrated as bishop of Liaoning Province's Jinzhou Diocese in April 1958, was badly beaten during the Cultural Revolution and kept overnight in a stinking drain.


*Lang Tao Shan is a Chinese Catholic and journalist. Two more of Lang's articles about China’s Cultural Revolution will follow this first report. 

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