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Tight lid on Bishop Su after 15 years prison


ROME (AsiaNews): For 15 years the bishop of the unofficial Catholic community in Baoding, Hebei province, Bishop James Su Zhimin, has been held in police custody at an unknown location without any contact with the outside world.

On the 15th anniversary of his disappearance on 8 October 1997, his family made yet another request to the police for information about him. However, their enquiries were met with the same blank response they have been receiving since he was taken away, “We do not know where he is.”

Some priests in his diocese told AsiaNews that irrespective of what happens they do not want to stop putting pressure on the police and the authorities to reveal the whereabouts of the bishop who is now in his 80s. They point out that he has now spent almost half of his life in prison.

The priests expressed the hope that the new director of the United Front, which manages the religious policy in the country, would bring a new attitude towards the bishop’s incarceration.

Up until September 1, the United Front was run by Du Qinglin, under whose command tensions had heightened between China and the Vatican over the illicit ordination of bishops. He was recently replaced by Ling Jihua, who is considered to be a more moderate man and known to be a great friend of the nation’s paramount leader, Hu Jintao.

Prior to his detention 15 years ago, Bishop Su had already been in and out of prison or forced labour camps for a total of at least 26 years. The authorities had branded him a counterrevolutionary because, since the 1950s, he had repeatedly refused to join the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.

In 1996, he published an open letter from a secret location, as at that time he knew the police were after him.

The letter calls for respect for human rights and religious freedom in China.

The only occasion his family have seen him was in November 2003, when it was discovered by chance that he had been admitted to a hospital in Baoding.

Although his bed was surrounded by police and public security officials, his family was only allowed to visit for a few minutes before he was taken away again.

He has not been heard from since and no one knows what has happened to him. He has never had a public trial.


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