Following earlier reports of the conduct of a state-sanctioned, peaceful, Catholic procession in honor of the Virgin Mary in that of a village outside Shanghai, new reports have surfaced of Chinese police obstructing Catholics and villagers alike from having joined the trail of an estimated 200 followers who processed up Sheshan mountain Friday. Reports even assert police briefly detained villagers who bypassed state-imposed roadblocks to join the procession before forcefully escorting them from the village. Local villagers involved in the procession report that Chinese police have surrounded and quarantined Donglu village, the host site of the Catholic festival and procession, the entire month of May since the early 1990’s, after some 10,000 Catholic pilgrims convened in Donglu to peacefully process to the top of Sheshan mountain. Though the festival itself was allowed by Chinese police, questions continue to surface as to whether the Chinese state is actually beginning to relax its historical hostility toward both the Vatican and the practice of religious freedom within Chinese borders.
05/26/2013 China (Rappler) – Police surrounded a Chinese village on Sunday, May 26, to prevent pilgrims from joining a Catholic parade to honor the Virgin Mary, who locals say appeared in the village a century ago.
Authorities placed roadblocks on main roads leading to the small village of Donglu, just a few hours drive from Beijing, where locals – an estimated 90% of whom are Catholic – are fiercely devoted to Mary.
“Police don’t let any outsiders into the village during May… it’s been like that for years,” a local believer who identified herself as Maria said, standing by the towering spires of a church which dominates the village’s skyline.
Donglu’s Catholics believe that the Virgin Mary appeared in the sky above the village in 1900, terrifying attackers from the anti-foreign Boxer uprising, which also targeted Catholics, into an awestruck retreat.
“More than 100 years ago, everyone felt the power of Mary to protect the village, and each generation has passed on the story,” Maria said.
A police lock-down lasting the entire month of May, when celebrations dedicated to Mary reach their peak, was established in the 1990s, after tens of thousands of pilgrims from China and abroad gathered in the village, locals say.
AFP reporters – who entered the village through tiny back lanes, before being briefly detained and escorted out by local police – saw officers sitting in blue tents erected as checkpoints on access roads.
Red banners calling on locals to “Carry out religious activities in a lawful and orderly manner” flapped in the breeze.