A Christian house church leader and his wife were buried alive in China's central Henan province for protesting against the government-ordered demolition of their church, and while the man managed to escape, his wife suffocated to death.
China Aid reported on the grisly news on Monday, noting the tragedy occurred last week at Beitou Church in Zhumadian, Henan province. Communist government authorities reportedly ordered the demolition of the church after Li Jiangong, the person in charge of the church, and his wife, Ding Cuimei, refused to hand over the church grounds to a local developer.
The husband and wife decided to try and stop the demolition and stepped in front of the bulldozing crew, but were purposefully shoved into a pit, where a bulldozer covered their bodies with soil.
"Crying for help, Li was able to dig his way free, but Ding suffocated before she could be rescued," the report stated.
The two crew members responsible for the crime are said to have been detained by authorities, while a criminal investigation team from the public security bureau reviews their case.
According to China Aid, one of the demolition team members was heard shouting out the order "bury them alive for me. I will be responsible for their lives."
China Aid President Bob Fu spoke about the vicius killing by saying, "bulldozing and burying alive Ding Cuimei, a peaceful and devout Christian woman, was a cruel, murderous act."
Fu added in a statement: "This case is a serious violation of the rights to life, religious freedom and rule of law. The Chinese authorities should immediately hold those murderers accountable and take concrete measures to protect the religious freedom of this house church's members."
Christians in China have been heavily targeted throughout the past couple of years by the ruling Communist Party due to their rapidly increasing numbers. Although Chinese officials claims that church demolitions and the forced removal of church rooftop crosses are connected with building code violations, human rights activists and other Christian leaders have said it is clear persecution against a religious group.
"The top leadership is increasingly worried about the rapid growth of Christian faith and their public presence, and their social influence," Fu told The Christian Post back in February.
"It is a political fear for the Communist Party, as the number of Christians in the country far outnumber the members of the party," he added.
The targeting of Christians in China has also reached the highest levels, notably with the arrest earlier this year of the Rev. Gu Yuese, the former leader of Hangzhou's Chongyi Church, the largest government sanctioned church in the country.
Gu, who had spoken out against rooftop cross removals, but was formally held on embezzlement charges, was released earlier in April.
Groups such as the International Christian Concern said that while it is good news that the pastor was released, the move by the Communist Party was "likely a precursor to the Chinese president's visit to the United States," referring to President Xi Jinping's meetings with U.S. President Barack Obama.
"Pastor Yuese is not completely out of the woods because residential surveillance could likely be or become the notorious black jail. If he is placed under its restrictive rules, he will not be allowed to leave his home or speak with anyone," ICC said at the time.