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Third priest detained in China at start of Holy Week

HONG KONG (UCAN): Father Peter Zhang Guangjun of the unofficial Church in the Diocese of Xuanhua, in Hebei, was forcibly taken away by authorities just after he celebrated Passion Sunday Mass on April 14.
A local Catholic, who identified himself as Paul, said that he received a call from the priest just as he was being apprehended.
“When some plainclothes men came closer to the car and asked Father Zhang to open the window, he felt bad things were going to happen and he called me immediately,” Paul said.
The men broke the window and pulled Father Zhang out from the car, Paul said.
Another Catholic, who was with the priest at the time, was also taken away, but was eventually kicked out of the car, Paul recounted.
Father Zhang is the third clergy of the unofficial community in the same diocese to be taken away by authorities in less than a month. No reason has been given his detention.
Local Catholics gathered and prayed in front of the Xuanhau regional government office a day after he was taken. They urged the government to negotiate and after some time, five people, including Father Zhang’s sister, were allowed to see him.
The authorities detained Coadjutor Bishop Augustine Cui Tai and vicar general Father Zhang Jianlin, who were taken away by the government without reason on March 29 and March 28 (Sunday Examiner, April 7). They are still being held.
A source, named John, believed that the government took the bishop and the vicar general to cut off the diocesan leadership from the faithful and that they are now doing it at parish level.
The unofficial parish Father Zhang is responsible for has around 10,000 parishioners who meet in private homes to worship.
This is not the first time that Father Zhang has been detained. He was arrested and held for two months in 2011. He was also tortured because he refused to get an official religious personnel certificate which shows the holder follows the authorities.
John said government officials tried showing parishioners a fake religious personnel certificate attributed to Father Zhang, but no one believed it.
 “If the priest got a certificate by himself, the government would not create this trouble. That’s why they kidnapped him,” John asserted.
Paul pointed out that, in the past, the government used to detain clergy when there were fewer people around and always at night.
This time it is different, he said, as Father Zhang was arrested publicly and roughly in broad daylight.

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