Chinese authorities raze city’s only Catholic church, detain leaders

HONG KONG – The only Catholic church in Ordos, in China’s autonomous region of Inner Mongolia, was destroyed the night of June 7, and the priest and lay leader were detained by police.

The demolition is believed to have been carried out pursuant to a court order, reported the Asian church news agency UCA News.

The agency reported that when parishioners arrived for morning Mass June 8, they found a pile of rubble littered with pieces of the altar and discovered a 16-foot cross in another pile of rubble. On June 9, parishioners set up camp near the ruins to try to prevent new construction on the site.

The 170-square-yard Dongsheng Church, which served a community of about 1,000 Catholics, was legally registered with the government in May 2009. However, the local government recently demanded the demolition of the church to make way for a new road.

Church leaders had talked with the government several times without success, sources told UCA News.

They said about 100 people arrived around midnight June 7 to demolish the church. The pastor, Father Gao En, and lay leader Yang Yizhi were awakened by the noise and tried to stop the destruction but were taken away in handcuffs.

They were returned to the parish after being detained for more than 20 hours at the police station, UCA News reported.

Hohhot Bishop Paul Meng Qinglu sent two priests to Ordos to investigate the incident. Sources told UCA News that the priests were negotiating with local officials for compensation.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.