Chinese property rights: Might makes right

An old and prevalent story about human rights in China

The Southern Cathedral, which was established in 1716, owned the land and ran a Catholic primary school there before the Communists took power in 1949. The building was confiscated by the Communist Party in 1952, when it was turned into a state school.

In the 1980s, the Chinese government began to return confiscated church property to its rightful owners, but many convents, schools and hospitals were not returned. The state-run school moved several years ago, and recently city authorities sold the land to a developer. At the time of the attack, the diocese and the local government were arguing the case in a Xi’an court.

On Nov. 22, the nuns had stopped workers from demolishing the school. However, the next night a work crew arrived after dark and began to tear down the building. A group of nuns ran out to stop the workers, but were attacked by about 40 thugs, carrying wooden batons with white towels wrapped around their wrists.