The wife of a church leader in China’s central Henan province was killed by being buried alive when she tried to prevent the destruction of her husband’s house-church, according to China Aid.

Ding Cuimei and her husband, Li Jiangong, stepped in front of a bulldozer as it began to destroy Beitou church on 14 April. The couple were pushed into a pit and covered with soil. Li managed to crawl to safety but his wife died from suffocation.

One of the members of the government-backed construction team allegedly said: “Bury them alive for me. I will be responsible for their lives.” Police have said the two members of the demolition team are being held on criminal charges.

Between 2014 and 2015, the Chinese government pulled down over 1,200 crosses from churches in the prosperous eastern coastal province of Zhejiang, known as the “Jerusalem of the East” for its strong Christian presence. The government says that its aim is to target the increasing number of illegal constructions. Some churches fall foul of building regulations by constructing larger churches than they have been permitted.