China: Ongoing repression does not spare Catholic clergy

Source: FSSPX News

China and in particular the province of Hebei have seen increased police pressure on alleged dissidents in recent months.  Christians have not been spared this police crackdown, according to the May 17 issue of the bulletin Eglises d’Asie [Churches of Asia] of the Parisian Foreign Missions.  The “Peace and Justice” committee of Hong Kong Diocese reports that almost twenty members of the “clandestine” Catholic clergy of Hebei Province are currently being detained.  Imprisoned without any legal proceedings, some of them have been tortured, and all have had to undergo “political education” sessions to compel their adherence to the “patriotic” authorities that control the official Catholic Church in China.

Since Communism came to power in 1949, the Chinese government has not recognized the Catholic Church, which has led to a division between so-called “patriotic” Catholics affiliated with the official Church of China and the “clandestine” Catholics loyal to the Holy See.  Jean-Marie Guénois, a journalist with Le Figaro, wrote on his blog on May 18:  “The great idea of Benedict XVI in his letter to Chinese Catholics dated May 27, 2007, was to start a reunification through a reconciliation of practices and of minds.  For now it seems that this project is doomed to failure.”  He then reported the pope’s remarks after the General Wednesday Audience on May 18:  “We know that among our brother Bishops there are some who suffer and find themselves under pressure in the exercise of their episcopal ministry.”   The priests and the lay faithful, too, may encounter “difficulties in the free profession of faith”.

Hebei seems to be one of the provinces where the pressures are the most severe.  On April 8, Fr. Joseph Chen Hailong, a 29-year-old priest ordained in 2009, was apprehended by a dozen plain-clothes policemen while he was visiting parishioners.  A member of the “clandestine” clergy of the Diocese of Xuanhua, he was in charge of part of a parish in the localities of Yanqing and Yongning, two suburbs of Peking/Beijing.  According to local religious sources, Fr. Chen had been under surveillance for several weeks by the police, who were looking for a pretext to arrest him.  Fr. Chen was taken to a hotel and interrogated there by officials from the Ministry for Religious Affairs, then transferred to an unknown location.

In the same Diocese of Xuanhua there have been troubling reports of mistreatment endured by another “clandestine” priest.  On January 13, 40-year-old Fr. Peter Zhang Guangjun was arrested by the Public Security forces.  Local sources tell of sleep deprivation for five days and repeated indignities.  The priest was released briefly for the lunar New Year when his family interceded on his behalf and promised that he would return to detention after the traditional holidays.  His relatives had to hand over an automobile as bail while he was staying with his family, and as of March 8 Fr. Zhang was again in prison.  Testimonies report that he is once again being subjected to mistreatment.

In the Diocese of Zhengding, a priest under the authority of the “clandestine” bishop of the place, Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo, was arrested in mid-March.  Fr. Wang Lifang was arrested after being drawn into a trap.  Called to come and administer the last rites to a sick person, he found himself in the presence of policemen in civilian dress who were waiting for him.  Here again, the place of his detainment and the charges against him are unknown.

Again according to local ecclesiastical sources, the large number of arrests in Hebei Province suggests a campaign launched by the authorities to compel the “clandestine” elements of the clergy to join the official “patriotic” communities.  There has still been no news at all about the fate or the physical condition of two bishops:  Bishop Su Zhemin, the “clandestine” bishop of the Diocese of Baoding, who disappeared after his arrest on October 8, 1997, and Bishop Shi Enxiang, the “clandestine” bishop of the Diocese of Yixian, arrested in Peking/Beijing on April 13, 2001.

(Sources : apic/eda/religioblog of Le Figaro – DICI no. 235 dated May 28, 2011)

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