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Heze priest gets two years hard labour

BEIJING (AsiaNews): A sentence of two years reeducation through hard labour was handed out to Father Wang Chengli, the administrator of the unofficial Church community in Heze in Shandong province, on August 25.

The 48-year-old priest was transferred to a reeducation centre in Jining, more than 150 kilometres away from the centre in Dongming where he had been held since his midnight arrest on August 3. A relative of Father Wang says that he has high blood pressure.

He has not been allowed any visitors, not even family, since he was picked up, so the details of his sentence or conviction are not clear. However, Catholic people in Heze believe it is for refusing to join the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.

They also believe that the sentence is connected with the proposed ordination of a new bishop in the diocese.

Public security officials can sentence people to reeducation through labour without a trial and there is no right of appeal. Its purpose is to reform political and religious dissidents, as well as being a punishment for some minor offences.

Some legal and human rights advocates estimate that more than 300,000 people in the country are currently detained in such centres.

Catholic people in Heze report that houses where they gather to pray are now being closely monitored by officials.

Father Wang is from a local family in Shandong, which has been Catholic for generations.

The diocese is appealing to the universal Church and the Holy See to pray for him and work for his release. 

Father Wang was born in Yanzhou and has led the unofficial Church community in Heze for the past few years. Ordained a priest in 1991, he celebrated his 20th anniversary this year.

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