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Catholic leaders detained in Hebei

Hong Kong (UCAN): In separate incidents in May, authorities in Hebei province, China, have stepped up persecution of unofficial Church community with the detention of a bishop and a priest as well as the demolition of an altar that left two people injured.

Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo from Zhengding, detained by officials on May 12, but then sent back to his cathedral to celebrate Mass on Pentecost Sunday on May 24, according to his priests. It remained unclear why was detained.

One Catholic source in Zhengding, who asked to remain anonymous, said, “He ordained a few priests in April and was then warned not to go on a pilgrimage during the Month of Mary in May.”

The source added that authorities had recently ordered all religious personnel—without specifying which faiths—to report their whereabouts.

Meanwhile, Father Liu Honggeng of the unofficial community in nearby Baoding has not been seen or heard from since talking to relatives on his mobile phone on May 7.

Another anonymous source said, “His mobile is off. We Catholics have inquired from relevant government departments but in vain.” 

Spokesperson for the Justice and Peace Commission of the Hong Kong diocese, Or Yan-yan, said that enquiries were made about Father Liu’s whereabouts, but there has been no reply.

She said, “Occurrences in the past have shown that such disappearances were acts committed by the authorities.” 

The priest was only just released in August 2014 after having been detained in 2006 for eight years for refusing to join the government’s Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA).

Just south in Anzhuang (part of Baoding diocese), more than 40 police officers were sent to demolish an eight-by-six-metre altar at a prayer house on May 22 and injured two women who were trying to protect it.

“Government officials came and asked about the prayer house early this month,” said a Church source in Anzhuang who requested anonymity.

Coadjutor Bishop Francis An Shuxin from Baoding, who once belonged to the unofficial community and who is from Anzhuang, said he could not mediate.

“They are all from the unofficial Church and do not accept me. I don’t think I could help,” he said.

 

Bishop An spent 10 years in prison until his release in 2006. In he 2009 agreed to become a member of the CCPA and was installed by the government as bishop the following year effectively replacing Bishop James Su Zhimin who has been detained since 1997 and whose whereabouts are not known. 

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