Beijing (AsiaNews) Four years ago, 83-year-old Mgr Shi Enxiang, a Bishop in the Chinese underground Church, disappeared and the authorities deny knowing anything about his fate. There is grave concern that he might end up like Mgrs Fan Xueyn and Li Lifang, who died in prison.
For this reason, the Chinese underground Church has decided to make public the detention of the 83-year-old prelate from Yixian (Hebei province) whose actual existence was hitherto unknown.
This explains why his name was not on the list of bishops and priests jailed by the Chinese government that AsiaNews published in March and why underground Church sources have asked that information about Bishop Shi's disappearance be made public.
The same sources also asked that news about the six-year detention of 42-year-old Fr Liu Deli also be made public; he too was not known to be a member of the underground Church.
The authorities were after Bishop Shi Enxiang since 1995; he eventually disappeared on the morning of April 13 2001 from his niece's home in Beijing.
According to eyewitnesses, two cars bearing licence plates from Xushui (Hebei province) drove the bishop away.
The family went to the Xushui police for information but they were refused. Beijing police also denied knowing anything.
Bishop Shi's family later tried again to get information about his whereabouts out of the Xushui police but met the same refusal.
After four years in jail, nothing is known about the Bishop's incarceration with the authorities still refusing to acknowledge knowing anything about it.
As for Fr Liu Deli, little is known about his fate since March 1999 according to sources from the Church loyal to Rome except that he was taken into custody by the government that had invited him to a meeting. Currently, there are no signs that he might be released any time soon.
The list AsiaNews published contains the names of 18 bishops and 19 priests whose fate remains unknown. It also includes a petition to be sent to the Chinese government asking for the clergymen's release.
The petition has found support in Europe and the US and in other websites and papers; among its supporters are Mario Mauro, Vice-President of the European parliament, and. after it went online, Mgr John H. Ricard, chairman of the Committee on International Policy of the US Catholic Conference of Bishops, who wrote a letter to China's Ambassador to Washington asking for "information about the jailed bishops and priests" in China.