HONG KONG, JAN 31 (ZENIT-FIDES).- Over the last few months, dozens of priests belonging to the underground Catholic Church have been arrested by police in mainland China. At least 6 bishops from the underground Church have “disappeared” — some for more than 3 years, others for several months — all because they refused to accept the control of the “official” Catholic Church — the Patriotic Association. Similar pressure is being exerted on underground Catholic families: their children are banned from schools and their churches are being destroyed. According to officials of the Catholic Church in Hong Kong, the Chinese government is implementing orders from a secret document issued last August. The government's objective is either to absorb the underground Church into the Patriotic Association, or to suppress it altogether. Shandong Sources of the international agency “Fides” confirm that Fr. John Gao Kexian, 72, of the diocese of Yantai, was taken by police last October. Prior to 1949, this diocese was entrusted to Franciscans and numbered some 12,000 faithful. Today there are over 30,000 Catholics in Yantai diocese.
Zhejiang At present, the diocese of Wenzhou is enduring pressure and violence. On November 23, Fr. Jiang Sunian was arrested; since December 23 his whereabouts are unknown. According to UCA News, Fr. Jiang's arrest brings to 6 the number of priests arrested in Wenzhou. The diocese's clandestine Bishop James David Lin Xili, 80, was arrested in Shanghai on September 8. Catholics of his diocese say the arrests are part of a campaign of threats, violence and blackmail launched by the local Patriotic Association to force membership in the Association.
At the beginning of January, 2000, a number of Catholics were forced to sign and/or fingerprint membership forms after a few days of detention. Some managed to escape, but police state that if they do not return and join the Patriotic Association, their children will be banned from school. Underground Church property, built without government permission, has been burnt or destroyed. In mid-December, two churches were blown up in Wenzhou, after three others were demolished in April.
Fujian In 1999, in the Fuzhou diocese alone, where there is a strong underground community, 13 churches were destroyed. Last October Bishop Xie Shiguang, 85, of Mindong, was “called in for a chat” with government officials and then disappeared. Bishop Xie had consistently refused the government's demand that he register the underground Church of Mindong. Eventually the Bishop returned home “free, but under control.”
Hebei Bishop John Han Dingxiang, 63, was arrested at the end of November in Shijiazhuang, while giving a retreat. Since then, his whereabouts are unknown. Han is the underground Bishop of Yongnian. He has been arrested and released several times in the past and, all together, has spent about 20 years in prison.
Just before Christmas, the Cardinal Kung Foundation broke the news of the arrest of Wang Chengqun, a layman. At present, he is in Hebei's Gaoyanxian labor camp for “re-education.” This is the seventh time in 20 years that Chengqun has been arrested; at least 10 years of his life have been spent in jail. When he was arrested in 1997, he suffered an attack of paralysis that went unattended.
Fathers Guo Yibao, Wang Zhenghe and Xie Guolin were all arrested in Hebei in 1999. There are 3 Bishops from this area who are missing: Bishop James Su Zhimin, 68, of Baoding; his Auxiliary Bishop Francis An Shuxin, 51, and Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo, 66, of Zhengding. The first two disappeared in 1996; the third was taken away on August 15, 1999.
From March 20 to April 28, 2000, the U.N. Human Rights Commission will hold a meeting in Geneva. The United States is preparing a resolution to condemn China; the European Union is expected to second the motion. ZE00013120
VATICAN CITY, JAN. 31 (ZENIT).-
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