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Appeal to Hu Jintao to release priests from Chinese prisons


ROME (AsiaNews): Saying that it would be an appropriate gesture of friendship and good will, the Rome-based agency, AsiaNews, is calling on the Chinese government to release all priests who are currently being held in detention or under house arrest on the mainland.

In a letter sent to the president of the People’s Republic of China, Hu Jintao, and the Chinese ambassador to Italy, Ding Wei, on January 16, the agency, which is run by the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, says, “Their release could be a gesture of friendship and hope for Catholics and human rights activists, as well as a sign of hope for the upcoming Chinese New Year.”

In its press release, AsiaNews says, “In just a few days, on January 23, the world of the Far East celebrates the Lunar New Year. We will enter the Year of the Dragon, a very positive year that promises many fruits. In China, hundreds of millions of people will travel to join their families. The dawn of the New Year is always celebrated by strengthening the bonds of family and friendships, which help to face the future with an even more positive outlook.”

The press release lists six priests and three bishops currently being held in detention, saying that Hu is being requested to release them so that they may be restored to their families and communities.

“They have never been charged with any crime (nor) given the opportunity of a trial or convicted by a court,” AsiaNews says. “And yet they have been interred in forced labour camps or were seized by the police of a country that is a member of the United Nations Security Council and that has signed the Charter of Human Rights.”

AsiaNews describes the Chinese ambassador as having displayed great diligence in caring for and serving the Chinese community in Italy. It says that in the wake of the January 5 nighttime street shooting in the suburbs of Rome of Zhou Zheng and his baby daughter, Joy, in a barbaric robbery, Ding “wept and prayed with them for the family of Zhou.”

The Italian news agency is asking Ding to exert a little of his diligence and care towards the bishops and priests who have disappeared and been imprisoned unjustly.”

It says that they are also his country people and our brothers.

Hong Kong-born Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-fai, the secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples in the Vatican, has added his voice to the appeal, saying that releasing the priests would be good for China’s international image.

While he notes that the appeals from the Vatican to Beijing are regularly rebuffed with officials saying they do not know where the priests are being held, Archbishop Hon was also critical of Voice of America for misrepresenting the refusal of Beijing to recognise the authority of the pope to appoint bishops, which he says is an issue of religious liberty, not merely an internal matter of Catholic doctrine, as the news reports suggest.



See page 2 for a list of bishops and priests currently being held in China.


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