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    » 09/12/2007, 00.00

    CHINA

    Catholic’s doubts on the death of Msgr. Han Dingxian, underground bishop of Yongnian



    For some his case recalls that of other bishops tortured in prison, who died and were hurriedly buried. For others the police behaviour explains their concerns to avoid visible gatherings.

    Rome (AsiaNews) – Prayers among the Chinese Catholics of Hebei are spreading for the death of Msgr. Giovanni Han Dingxian, underground bishop of Yongnian, who died September 9 last.  But discontent and sorrow over the way in which his body was treated is also widespread.  Few hours after his death (at 11 at night) in the early morning, his body was immediately cremated and buried in a public cemetery, thus denying the faithful and priests the possibility of being able to bless him and bid him a final farewell.

    For some this is a sign that the police “feared his death and aimed to cover up proof”; for others it is only a sign of the police wish to avoid all visible forms of Underground Churches public ceremony.

    A statement from the diocese of Yongnian has no note of controversy regarding the death of the bishop.  It underlines that Msgr. Han had spent 35 years of his life in prison and asks all of the faithful to pray for him, described as “a model of faith and of pastoral guidance” for all of the Church.

    One faithful from Hebei explains that he views the speed with which the police cremated and buried the body as a sign of their concern to avoid all visible Underground Church gatherings or ceremonies, which would have forced police intervention, (being illegal).

    Other Catholics admit that “the bishop was ill with cancer” but they wonder: “why did they immediately cremate the body?”  They recall many similar cases: above all the plight of Msgr. Giovanni Gao Kexian, underground bishop of Yantai (Shandong), who died on the evening of January 24th 2005 in a hospital in Bingzhou (Shandong). The bishop had been a police prisoner for over 5 years.  The day after he was immediately cremated and buried in the presence of some police.  As in the case of Msgr. Han no faithful or family members were allowed participate.  Bishop Gao too died without any religious comfort, blessing or Psalm.

    Years before, in April ’92, there was the case of Msgr. Giuseppe Fan Xueyan, Underground bishop of Baoding, who died in prison.  His body was dumped on the doorstep of his home, wrapped in a plastic bag, with signs of torture on his neck (perhaps the mark of a wire string used to choke him) and bruises on his chest and face.

    Another case remembered by the Catholics is that of Msgr. Liu Difen, Underground bishop of Anguo (Hebei), who also died in ’92, after a period spent in prison.  The police had warned his relatives to visit him in hospital because he was “gravely ill”.  Immediately after the visit the bishop died. His body was handed back to his family and as they prepared him for burial they noticed that he had ‘holes in his back, the depth of a finger: a sign that he had been tortured”.

    China has often been criticised by the international community for the police use of torture.  Manfred Nowak, chief UN investigator for torture confirmed in his 2006 report that the use of torture “is widespread in China”.  He also demanded the immediate release of all those who are in prison for having exercised the right to practise their religious beliefs or freedom of expression”.

    In China there are also laws which prohibit torture, but all too often they remain only words on paper.

    In 2004 the Minister for Public Security published a regulation that puts responsibility for the death of detained persons at the door of the police force.

    In Photo: Msgr. Han Dingxian at work in his office

     

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    See also

    08/02/2010 CHINA - VATICAN
    Over twenty thousand Catholics at the funeral of the Bishop of Zhaoxian
    Mgr. Raymond Wang Chonglin died February 2 at 88. He spent 21 years in prison for his loyalty to the pope. Underground bishop ordained in '83, he was accepted by the government in '88.

    22/10/2010 MALAYSIA
    Running out of space in Malaysia’s Christian cemeteries
    In Kuala Lumpur and surrounding areas, publicly owned burial space for non-Muslims is running out. Traditionally, Christians avoid cremation, and private cemeteries are very expensive.

    12/03/2011 CHINA - VATICAN
    Police isolate Hebei village after death of an underground bishop
    Bishop Andrea Hou Jinli of Xiwanzi, died March 9. The date of the funeral not known while police block participation of the faithful. Bishop Hao spent 10 years in prison and 10 years in a concentration camp.

    03/08/2006 CHINA
    Hebei: bishop, priest and 90 unofficial Catholics arrested

    Police from the province – which has the highest density of Catholics, mostly of unofficial status – did not explain why they took the bishop into custody. Local Catholics protested against the injustice: a pregnant woman miscarried and two men were seriously injured in clashes with the police.



    06/09/2011 CHINA
    Chinese democrat Yao Lifa: kidnapped by the police then released only to “disappear”
    Yao Lifa was detained illegally for 10 weeks, beaten, deprived of food and subjected to torture. Back home for ill health reasons he “disappeared” again after one day. Dozens of dissidents kidnapped by police and interned in forced labour camps or psychiatric hospitals.



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