Fr Shao Zhoumin and Fr Jiang Sunian, who had just returned from Europe, have already spent time in prison. AsiaNews sources in China said the release of the bishop of Zhengding, Mgr Jia, was decided "for fear of popular protests" and they warned that "he could be arrested again".
Rome (AsiaNews) Police in the southern Guangdong province arrested two priests of China's unofficial church on 25 September as they were returning from a trip to Europe, said the Kung Foundation, a US-based organization lobbying for religious freedom in China.
Meanwhile, AsiaNews sources in China said the real reason why Mgr Julius Jia Zhiguo, bishop of Zhengding (Hebei), was released was that the government feared the faithful may organize "popular protests" for his release on 1 October, which is National Day. The same sources said it was very likely that "once the feast day is over, Mgr Jia will be arrested again".
The police apprehended Fr Shao Zhoumin, vicar general of Wenzhou diocese (in the eastern Zhejiang Province), and Fr Jiang Sunian, chancellor of the same diocese, without giving any reasons for their arrest. Both priests were arrested at 7pm, three hours after they landed in Shenzhen, while they were at the home of friends.
The police took away a large number of books and photos that the priests brought back from Europe. The place of their detention is unknown.
Both Fr Shao and Fr Jiang have already been imprisoned twice. The first time was in 1999. Later, Fr Shao was admitted to hospital with urgency to be treated for a sickness contracted during his imprisonment and was released. In November of the same year, Fr Jiang was apprehended for illegally publishing 120,000 hymn books and was formally arrested on 23 December. He was sentenced to six years in prison and a fine of 270,000 yuan, but he was released on Christmas day of 2003.
The bishop of Wenzhou diocese, Mgr James Lin Xili, was also arrested in September 1999 and still now he is confined to the cathedral of the official Church, deprived of freedom of movement. He is not in good health.
For more information about the previous arrests of Fr Shao and Fr Jiang, click here.