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ICC Note: It is good that the nuns were compensated for what they suffered and that the men realized what they had done to them.

Xian nuns and defendants reach out-of-court settlement in assault and battery case

11/10/06 China (AsiaNews) – The Franciscan Missionaries of Mary Convent in Xian, central China , has reached an out-of-court settlement with the men who attacked 16 of its nuns for trying to stop the demolition of the diocesan Rosary School , Sister Maria Goretti Yang Conghui, superior general of the congregation, told AsiaNews.

Sister Maria said that a settlement was reached on October 27 with the attorneys representing the defendants, including the owner of the security company who had bought the land where the school was located. A payment of 260,000 yuan (€ 26,000, US$ 31,000) in compensation for medical expenses incurred by the nuns was made. It comes on top of 90,000 yuan already paid on November 23, last year.

After the deal was struck, the convent released a statement to local Catholics on October 30. It said that the defendants had “realized they caused severe physical and psychological harm to our nuns, and expressed a sincere wish for repentance.” It added that the nuns “would forgive and reconcile with” their assailants “in the spirit of mercy and the love of Christ.” The Superior general also thanked “all those who in various ways showed interest in their situation”.

The out-of-court settlement has not ended all legal proceedings. The convent however stated that it “hope the court would give the defendants a lenient sentence” so that they had “a chance to return to society and rebuild their lives.” The nuns went further and said that they would have no objection if the court released the men without punishment.

Public security officers in Xian detained the nine men—the head of a security company and eight of the company’s employees aged 24-28—a few days after the violent assault.

Fourteen of the nuns were so badly injured they had to be hospitalised; one of them, Sister Cheng Jing, is not likely to regain full use of one of her eyes, whilst another, Sister Dong Jianian, sustained injuries to her lumbar vertebrae.

Used by the authorities ever since Mao took over, the former Church school building was finally confiscated by the government during the Cultural Revolution and used as a state-run primary school.

After lying empty for a few years, the government, in violation of its own law, sold it to a real estate company rather than return it to its legitimate owners.

When the incident occurred the government blamed hooligans and offered to pay 3,000 yuan (€ 300, US$ 360) in compensation for the serious injuries the nuns incurred. But the case went to trial.

The first hearing was held on October 17. All the defendants claimed that they did not take part in the “actual beating” but did admit to seeing the nuns “beaten up terribly by sticks, fists and kicks” at the scene.

At the end of the hearing, the judge suggested that the plaintiffs and defendants negotiate an out-of-court settlement which was done over the following ten days.

The superior had asked for 500,000 yuan in compensation for surgical, medical, nursing, counselling and other expenses for the care of the injured nuns, but accepted a lower amount because the “aggressors acknowledged their errors”.

A few days after the assault, Xian archbishop Anthony Li Duan, who passed away last May, went to visit the nuns in hospital even though he himself was wheelchair-bound.

Soon after the attack last year, the diocese bought the land and paid the government 6.5 million yuan despite objections by many priests and faithful who saw it as an unfair settlement forced upon the Church.

Because of it, the diocese now finds itself in a dire financial situation and can barely support its local priests.

Asia News