Shijiazhuang (AsiaNews) – All one hundred seminarians at the Hebei Catholic seminary today took part in a demonstration outside the government’s Ethnic and Religious Affairs Commission (ERAC) in Hebei Province. For the past 18 days, they have protested against the appointment of a government official as vice-rector of their seminary, fearing that their spiritual values would be compromised by politics.
Most of the seminarians, in their white surplice, held banners and cards, reiterating “the demand of a written statement on revocation of vice-director Tang Zhaojun as vice-rector of their seminary”. Other banners read “Honour your promise” and “Hebei Catholic Seminary”.
“We protest outside the government office, because we cannot tolerate the situation anymore,” a seminarian told AsiaNews. “This demonstration is on the initiative of the seminarians. No priests or bishops are involved in today’s action,” he said.
During the day’s “silent demonstration,” ERAC officials discussed twice with seminarian representatives in their office, but they failed to agree to the seminarians’ sole demand of a written statement of revocation. According to a source, ERAC Deputy Director-General Kang Zhifeng told the students that the appointment was a “Communist personnel arrangement” and refused to give a written statement.
Brazing a wintry cold, students began their protest at 8.40 am outside the ERAC offices at 53 Huaxi Road in Shijiazhuang city. Several police vehicles were stationed at the site but security officials did not interfere with the students’ action. By 7 pm, the seminarians were still outside the offices.
Tang Zhaojun’s appointment as vice-rector of Hebei seminary was announced on 11 November. It met immediate opposition from seminarians and teachers. Since the government refused to cancel the appointment, seminary students and teachers went on a strike.
On 17 November, Deputy Director-General Kang went to the seminary where he verbally agreed to rescind the appointment and call for a board of directors’ meeting to solve the issue.
However, several Hebei bishops who had been taken to the Chengde ordination on 20 November could not be reached. Thus, the seminary’s board of directors could not convene to deal with the matter.
After the ordination, the bishops were still unable to meet to settle the issue. “Until today, there is no news of revocation of the appointment,” a seminarian said.