» 12/29/2006 12:43 CHINA Nine underground priests arrested in Hebei The priests had gathered together to study. The reason for their arrest is unknown. For some time now, the Patriotic Association has been conducting a harsh campaign to clamp down on unofficial communities.
Rome (AsiaNews) – Police of the northern province of Hebei arrested nine unofficial priests of the diocese of Baoding on 27 December.
The nine priests are: Fr Wen Daoxiu; Fr Li Shujun; Fr Li Yongshun; Fr.Wang Quanjun; Fr Wang Qiongwei; Fr Pang Yongxing; Fr Pang Haixing; Fr Dong Guoyin and Fr Liu Honggeng.
The group had met to study in a place around 30km south of Baoding. The reason for their arrest is unknown. It is likely that they were arrested just because they were meeting for a time of prayer during the Christmas season in a place unknown to the government.
Hebei is the region with the highest number of Catholics (1.5 million), most of them belonging to the underground Church that refuses to be subject to the control of the Patriotic Association (PA), an organization set up by the Communist Party that aims to build a church detached from Rome. The PA has launched a campaign of arrests of bishops, priests and believers of Hebei in a bid to subdue them. According to information of AsiaNews, at least six underground bishops of Hebei disappeared after arrest. Among them is the Ordinary of the diocese of Baoding, James Su Zhimin, 73 years, who was arrested in 1996.
The auxiliary bishop of Baoding, Mgr Francis Shuxin, was released on 24 August by the Chinese authorities after 10 years imprisonment.