Card Zen and Catholics protest against Beijing over the fate of Mgr Cosma Shi Enxiang
by Victoria Ma
The Chinese government has not said whether the bishop of Yixian is still alive or dead. White roses and carnations are offered to honour bishops who died in prison, and those alive but still in prison. Chinese authorities violate their own constitution. Protesters called for the release of Mgr Su Zhimin, who disappeared in police custody 17 years ago.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - Cardinal Joseph Zen, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, and a group of Catholics protested today, Feb. 14, outside the China Liaison Office in Hong Kong, demanding the Chinese government tell the truth about the current situation of the missing Bishop Cosmas Shi Enxiang of Yixian (Hebei) and other detained clergy.

Cardinal Zen, who has been suffering from a serious flu lately, joined the protest organised by the Justice and Peace Commission of the Hong Kong diocese.

The protesters also remembered the Chinese bishops who died in detention in the past decades, including Bishop Joseph Fan Xueyan of Baoding (Hebei), Bishop Han Dingxiang of Yongnian (Hebei) and Bishop Gao Kexian of Yantai and Zhoucun (Shandong). They were holding flowers to remember them, shouting slogans, saying prayers and singing hymns praying for them and all the members of the clergy still in jail.

They offered white roses for the bishops who died in detention and carnations for those who disappeared after being forcibly taken into custody.

According to a statement released by the protesters, recent reports indicate that Bishop Cosmas Shi might have died in detention after being "secretly imprisoned for 14 years without any trial".

The statement noted that according to some sources Bishop Shi had died two years ago. Some Church people noted that the Chinese government bans all kinds of information and refuses to disclose the whereabouts and status of Bishop Shi, so it is not possible to confirm he is dead or not.

Born in 1921, Bishop Shi has been imprisoned for more than 50 years in total. On April 13, 2001, Good Friday, he was arrested in Beijing at his niece's home. Since then, his whereabouts have been unknown and nobody can say if he is dead or not.

The Justice and Peace Commission statement noted, "Bishop Shi is under forced disappearance, a serious violation of human rights. Now, even about his status of living or death is not known even to his family, it is an extremely inhumane act." Therefore, the protesters strongly urged the Chinese government to say publicly whether Bishop Shi is alive or dead. If he is dead, they want the authorities to return the body to the family for burial.

Protesters also demand the truth about another missing bishop, Mgr James Su Zhimin of Baoding (Hebei). He was arrested many times due to his loyalty to the Catholic faith. When he was arrested for the eighth time in October 1997, he went missing permanently, for more than 17 years now. Recently, Bishop Su's family tried to make an appeal to Yu Zhengsheng, a member of the Politburo's Standing Committee who was visiting Baoding. However, they were kept under house arrest in a hotel for three days. This "was a serious violation of Article 37 of China's Constitution about civil liberty rights," the statement says.

Catholics remembered the two missing bishops for their long suffering over religious freedom and their Catholic faith, and honoured them by showing them their utmost respect. They criticised the Chinese government for their action of forced disappearance and demanded respect for citizens' rights to religious freedom.

Protesters also called for the immediate release of Bishop Su and of all other detained members of the Catholic clergy as well as an end to the surveillance of their activities.

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