01/05/2006, 00.00
CHINA - VATICAN

Mgr Han Dingxian, underground bishop of Hebei, is missing

This means there are now three "desaparecidos" bishops. And the eldest priest of Yongnian diocese was arrested in December.

Rome (AsiaNews) – Mgr Han Dingxian, unofficial bishop of Yongnian (Hebei), has disappeared. In 1999 he was arrested and kept in isolation in a government-owned hostel. He was not allowed to have any contact at all with his community or his relatives, but every so often some of them could catch a glimpse of him from the window. Now they have had no news of him for some time, nor have they been able to see him through the window panes.

Mgr Han Dingxian, 66 years, is one of the bishops about whom AsiaNews launched an awareness campaign last March. In the past, he spent more than 20 years in prison.

Mgr Han's disappearance brings the number of missing bishops up to three, all from Hebei: Mgr James Su Zhimin, 72 years, Ordinary of the Diocese of Baoding, who disappeared in 1996; Mgr Francis An Shuxin, 54 years, auxiliary of Baoding, arrested in 1997 and missing since.

Despite pressure exerted by religious personalities and international politics, the Chinese government has never given any clue as to their plight.

The news of the bishop's disappearance was disseminated today by the Kung Foundation, which also reported more news: Fr Wang Wenzhi, 50 years, from the diocese of Mgr Han Dingxian, was arrested on 11 December in Fengfeng, near Handan (Hebei). Sources of AsiaNews have confirmed that he is being kept in isolation in a hotel and he is being subjected to brainwashing and political sessions to convince him to join the Patriotic Association.

Fr Wang is the oldest priest in Yongnian diocese, which has 30 priests in all. For several months now, to put a stop to possible rapprochement between Beijing and the Vatican, the Patriotic Association has launched a violent campaign to subjugate bishops, priests and the faithful and to force them to join the organization, often resorting to the threat of armed force.

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See also
Six underground priests arrested in Hebei
29/11/2005
China's 4 bishops will not attend Synod
30/09/2005
A new Chinese bishop consecrated with Vatican approval
19/10/2005
A new wave of persecution against Hebei Catholics
27/09/2005
WYD: The first time ever for China's underground Church
11/08/2005