Nuns and Alleged Assailants Reach Out-of-Court Settlement in Xi'an Beating Case

December 8, 2006

A group of 16 registered Catholic nuns in Xi'an city, Shaanxi province, reached an out-of-court settlement in a civil case against 9 men who allegedly assaulted the nuns in November 2005 while they occupied former Church property, according to November 10, 2006, reports by AsiaNews and the Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN, via the Indian Catholic).

The nine defendants, who included the owner of the company that purchased the former Church property from the local government and eight of his employees, testified before a Xi'an court on October 17 that they saw the nuns being beaten but did not take part in the beating. Fourteen of the nuns also testified before the court. The judge suggested that the parties negotiate an out-of-court settlement, and negotiations ensued. On October 27, the nuns agreed to accept a payment of 260,000 yuan (US$ 31,000) in compensation for their medical expenses; this is in addition to 90,000 yuan paid to the nuns in 2005. A criminal case against the defendants appears to be pending; the Xi'an court refused the defendants’ request to dismiss criminal charges against them, according to the UCAN account. As of November 7, the nine defendants remained in detention.

The case resulted from the nuns having been beaten in a November 23, 2005, incident in Xi'an. The nuns were attacked as they staged a sit-in to prevent the demolition of buildings on the former Catholic Church property, which they sought to recover. The local government confiscated the property during the 1960s, and refused to return it, in apparent violation of a 1980 State Council directive (unofficial translation available on the Web site of the Holy Spirit Study Centre) that such properties be returned to the Church. Similar incidents in which officials or unidentified assailants beat registered Catholic nuns or priests who disputed the sale or rental of former Church property occurred in Tongyuan village, Shaanxi province, in November 2005, and in Tianjin municipality in December 2005. Forum 18 and the Holy Spirit Study Centre have reported that some local governments in China not only have failed to return former Church properties but also have sold or rented the properties to third parties and retained the proceeds.

For more information on religious freedom for Catholics in China, see the CECC 2006 Annual Report, Section V(d).