09/19/2008, 00.00
CHINA
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Mgr Jia Zhiguo freed, still under surveillance day and night

Underground bishop returned home with a police escort after the end of the Paralympic Games. He had disappeared on 24 August to be prevented from having possible contacts with journalists. The prelate has opened his home to about 100 disabled children in his diocese.
Zhengding (AsiaNews) – Mgr Julius Jia Zhiguo, underground bishop of Zhengding (Hebei), was brought to his house last night.  He had disappeared into the hands of the police on 24 August at the end of the Olympic Games held in Beijing. At presence he is under house arrest with 24-hour police surveillance, unable to meet any of the faithful or priests of his diocese.

The bishop was picked up on Sunday morning 24 August right after Mass, a few hours before the end of the Olympic Games. The guards who picked him up did not give any reasons for action.

Some faithful told AsiaNews that his removal from Zhengding (about 300 kilometres from Beijing) was meant to prevent him from meeting any journalists or officials from disabled groups during the Paralympics held in the capital from 6 to 17 September.

Mgr Jia Zhiguo is famous around the world because he has given shelter to a group of 100 children who have been abandoned because of a handicap or because they were girls. The latter reason is due to the fact that Chinese families tend to prefer boys (cf The authorities want to throw out Mgr Jia Zhiguo’s nuns for helping disabled children, AsiaNews, 17 December 2007).

Mgr Jia, 73, has spent 15 years in prison (from 1963 to 1978), but since 1989 he has been under tight police surveillance. During this same period he has been arrested and released 12 times.

Because he is a leading figure in the underground Church the police has tried to convince him to join the Patriotic Association, the party organisation that is trying to build a national Church, separate from the Holy See.

In the past the Vatican has often championed his cause.

The diocese of Zhengding includes 110,000 Catholics, at least 80 priests and more than 90 nuns.

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