Beijing (AsiaNews) - A group of police
officers from Qiaodong District, in the northern province of Hebei, have arrested
and taken to an unknown location an underground priest of the diocese of
Xiwanzi, Fr. Song Wanjun.
priest had already risked arrest some time ago, but had managed to escape. He
was stopped and detained by 10 law enforcement officers at 4 in the morning of
August 7 last while he was driving his car.
Wanjun, 39, was ordained a priest 11 years ago. He
carried out his pastoral mission for years in Zhangbei county before being assigned
to Chongli county. The
news of his arrest was confirmed by the Joseph Cardinal Kung Foundation, based
in the United States.
Diocese of Xiwanzi is located in the northern part of the province. In
recent years, the Chinese government has clamped down harshly on the local underground
Church: many priests and bishops were imprisoned, placed under house arrest or
forced to undergo "study sessions" to convince them to join the
Patriotic Association, a government organization that Benedict
XVI described in his letter to the Chinese Church as "incompatible"
with Catholic doctrine.
In recent years other arrests of
clergy include Msgr. Yao Ling,
who has since died, Fr. Li Huisheng, sentenced to 7 years,
Fr. Wang Zhong, sentenced
to 3 years. Two
underground bishops from Heibei province were also arrested several years ago, whose
fate remains a mystery. The first is
Su Zhimin, almost 82 year, bishop of Baoding (Hebei), arrested by the police on
October 8, 1997. The
charges against him, whether he was given a trail or where he is being held
In November 2003, he was located
by chance while receiving hospital care in Baoding, but he was surrounded by
a brief and hurried visit from relatives, he once again disappeared in police
custody. The second is Msgr. Cosma
Shi Enxiang, 92 years old, bishop of Yixian (Hebei), arrested on 13 April 2001.
traces of his wellbeing or whereabouts have been lost, despite the constant
pleas of his relatives and faithful to the authorities for the smallest amount
of information. Some
time ago AsiaNews launched a campaign
for their release.
Hebei is one of the strongholds
of the Catholic China: the diocese of Baoding alone, one of the largest and
with a strong presence of underground Catholics, has at least 50 thousand
are 120 priests, official and underground. For
several years the government has launched a campaign to force Hebei priests and
bishops of the underground community to officially register, along with their
inscription as members of the Patriotic Association.
According to AsiaNews sources, over the past 20 years at least 20 Catholic priests
of the underground area of Zhangjiakou (Hebei), in the diocese of Xuanhua and
Xiwanzi, have been tortured and suffered tremendous pressure join the Patriotic
Association (PA) , controlled by the
Communist Party of China.