In an official statement posted on the embassy site, Michael Clauss asks that the detained bishop of Wenzhou, be given full freedom of movement. Concerns also expressed over drafts of the new regulations on religious activities, which decree the end of the underground communities. It is the first time after a decade that a European ambassador has called for the release of a bishop.
Beijing (AsiaNews) - Germany's ambassador to China Michael Clauss (photo 2) has asked the Beijing government to release the bishop of Wenzhou, Msgr. Peter Shao Zhumin (photo 1) and expressed concern about new religious regulations that risk "to implement new restrictions on the right to religious freedom and belief."
In a statement released yesterday on behalf of the ambassador on the embassy site, he reads: "I welcome China's declared intention to achieve progress with regard to the Catholic Church. However, despite progress in this direction, we also see setbacks in guaranteeing religious freedom. One case of growing concern is the treatment of Bishop Shao Zhumin by the authorities. Since autumn last year he seems to have been forced to move to unknown locations no less than four times and now seems to have been confined to his home since his return. His full freedom of movement should be restored."
Bishop Shao, of the underground community, is bishop of Wenzhou. He is recognized by the Holy See, but not by the government. Since the death of his predecessor, Msgr. Vincenzo Zhu Weifang, on September 7th, he has been continuously abducted to force him to join the Patriotic Association, which preaches the independence of the Church in China from the Holy See.
He was last abducted on 18 May. On June 16, he was seen at Wenzhou Airport, accompanied by governmental officials, who conducted him to an unknown place.
In his note, Ambassador Clauss adds: "I am also concerned about a number of new rules in a draft regulation on religious affairs. If unchanged, they could place further restrictions on the right to freedom of religion and belief."
The new regulations - which were drafted in September, but which have already been referred to as "definitive" - control every aspect of religious activity: gatherings, staff, bishops, schools, buildings, statues, meetings with foreign faiths, holidays and placement of priests , ... If implemented, they will render any "underground" and unregistered activity "criminal", suffocating or eliminating underground communities.
Michael Clauss's public position is a novelty in the diplomatic world after such a long time. In the past both the European Union and US President George W. Bush had pleaded the fate of some imprisoned bishops and religious freedom in China. Then, for at least a decade, silence fell.