China arrests dissident Catholic priest
Chinese authorities have arrested a Catholic priest who had operated underground to serve fellow Chrsitians in Xiwanzi Diocese of Hebei province. Father Song Wanjun (39) was arrested on the afternoon of August 7 in the Qiaodong District of Zhangjiakou City by more than 10 Chinese security personnel while he was driving. He was taken to jail in the Qiaodong District and then transferred to Zhangbei County. His current whereabouts are unknown, according to a statement from the Cardinal Kung Foundation – a human rights advocacy organization. Fr. Song had eluded security officers in a previous attempt to arrest him.
Xiwanzi Diocese is located in northern Hebei, where there is a notable number of Catholics who adhere to the so-called ‘Underground Church’ that remains in communion with the worldwide Roman Catholic Church and the Pope. China has an approved ecclesial organization that is referred to as a ‘Patriotic Association’ that, while it retains the rituals and some of the beliefs of the Catholic Church, it is utterly under the control of the communist government. China has repeatedly jailed and persecuted the priests of the Xiwanzi Diocese and tried to force them to join the Patriotic Association. In previous years, the Chinese Communist Authorities has jailed or placed priests and bishops under house arrest. Among these are: Bishop Yao Liang, Father Li Huisheng, and Father Wang Zhong. Many other priests have been forcibly "invited " to participate in "Study Sessions" organized by the government to convert them to the Patriotic Association, however without much success.
The Cardinal Kung Foundation is appealing to the world and political leaders to ask the Chinese government to reveal the whereabouts of all priests and religious currently being detained. Joseph Kung, President of the Cardinal Kung Foundation, reminded that there is no freedom for religion in China. Religious persecution is very much alive in China.
Among those being held are Bishop Shi Enxiang, the underground Roman Catholic bishop of Yixian in Hebei. He was arrested on Good Friday, 13 April 2001. Kung said, “We do not know where he is detained at present and how he is healthwise.” Other details of his arrest are unknown. Bishop Shi is now over 90 years old and was ordained a bishop in 1982. He was previously in jail for about thirty years. He was last arrested in December 1990, held in custody for three years, and released November 1993. The authorities tried to arrest him in 1996, but failed. He remained in hiding until his arrest in 2001.
Another example is Bishop Su Zhiming, the underground Roman Catholic bishop of Baoding in Heibei. Now over 80 years old, he was arrested in 1997 in Hebei following 17 months on the run. He had been kept in prison in the past. Since 1997, he has remained incommunicado. His whereabouts and well-being remain unknown.
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