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China: Around The Nation

Plucky pensioner, 68, foils thieves’ attempt to steal head from ancient Buddha statue

Two members of crime gang end up in prison after cool-headed sexagenarian refuses to be paid off or shaken off

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 September, 2017, 3:22pm
UPDATED : Friday, 22 September, 2017, 4:17pm

A 68-year-old Chinese woman has been given a 1,000 yuan (US$150) reward for single-handedly foiling an attempt by two men to steal the head from a 1,000-year-old Buddha relief carved into a rock face, according to local media.

The incident happened in July 2016, but was reported by news portal Thecover.cn on Thursday, the day the two would-be thieves – Zeng Zhongming and Chen Liangmin – were sentenced to prison terms of five years and nine months, and two years and five months respectively.

Pan Yuanju was with her husband Guo Shuming, a 75-year-old guard at Muyu Mountain in Anyue county, southwestern China’s Sichuan province, when she heard strange noises coming from the site of the ancient relics, the report said.

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When she went to investigate she saw two men chopping the head off one of the Buddha carvings and immediately leapt into action.

When the thieves heard her cries for help, they tried to silence her with a 600-yuan bribe, but Pan was having none of it. She lunged at the pair who pushed her aside and ran to their waiting van.

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Pan almost tumbled off the hillside when she was shoved but still she refused to give up. As the men tried to drive away, the plucky pensioner grabbed one its wheels and would not let go, the report said.

Such was her strength and determination that the thieves were unable to make a clean getaway and instead abandoned the van. In a bid to hide their crime, they tossed the severed head into a nearby river and fled on foot.

“I held on to the wheel, thinking that I would absolutely not let go,” Pan was quoted as saying. “As long as we had the vehicle, even if the people ran away we’d have the proof.”

Despite her bravery, Guo said his wife had to spend a week in hospital receiving treatment for the injuries she suffered in the scuffle.

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“It was lucky she wasn’t pushed off the hill, otherwise she would have ended up with broken bones, or even lost her life,” he said.

When police arrived at the scene they were able to identify the two suspects from their van, exactly as Pan had thought. The pair was later linked to a gang that specialised in stealing antiques and arrested.

Muyu Mountain features more than 700 Buddhist statues dating back to the Tang dynasty (618-907AD).