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    » 11/19/2013, 00.00

    CHINA - VATICAN

    Two priests from underground Church in prison. Doubts about Xi Jinping’s "unprecedented" reforms

    Bernardo Cervellera

    The two young priests gave catechism classes to adults in Qinyuan . Faithful who helped them are fined. Some Catholics hope that the concentration of power in the National Security Council will lessen patriotic association’s power and enhance religious freedom. Others fear the situation will worsen because reforms reaffirm the Communist Party monopoly of power.

    Rome (AsiaNews) - Two priests from the underground Church are in prison since early October. They are "guilty" of having organized catechism classes for adults in the town of Qinyuan , near Baoding (Hebei ). The two men are Fr. Tian Dalong and another priest whose identity is unknown to AsiaNews, both in their 40s.  They were arrested and isolated in police barracks in Baoding, an area with one of the largest non-official communities. Four lay faithful, who helped the priests in their pastoral activities have been forced to pay a fine of 4 thousand yuan each (about 400 EUR ) , accounting for more than two months' salary of a skilled worker.

    According to AsiaNews sources, there are at least 10 priests in similar conditions, some have even been sentenced to the laojiao (forced labor camps for "reform through labor") for years. What is important about these latest arrests is that they took place just weeks after the Third Plenum of the Chinese Communist Party, a meeting which the leadership loudly proclaimed would produce "unprecedented" reforms.

    The world media, coached by Xinhua's carefully controlled reports, have praised these possible reforms, focusing on the economic novelties: a gradual reduction of government influence in the economy; promotion of private investment and foreign tax reform, the elimination of mandatory residence visas ( hukou ) for migrants; reform of the one-child law, etc ...

    AsiaNews has presented these aspects also showing the ambiguities (see here, here, here and here).

    Chinese Catholics are wondering if the plenum will bring more hope of freedom for Catholics and for religious freedom in general. These questions focus on the future function of the new National Security Council launched by the Plenum as an example of the new reform .

    According to Xinhua, the National Security Council ( NSC ) should "perfect the national security system and  strategy, guaranteeing the nations security". The few explanations on how the NSC would function were given by Xi Jinping, who stated that the new body should "strengthen the unity of the leadership in state security", making "national security and social stability preconditions for reform and development " (Xinhua , 15/11/2013 ) .

    Several experts think that "the unity of the leadership in state security" means that the NSC will be a superior power to the army, the police, the intelligence services and the judiciary, which should ensure social stability and internal relations with foreign countries.

    Some Catholics in the north and east of China believe this concentration of power in the hands of the central government , and perhaps the same Xi Jinping, will promote religious freedom. Very often, the imprisonments, the expropriation of church land, the arrests of priests and faithful depend on the decisions of local leaders, who have no qualms in ignoring national regulations on religion . In addition, strengthening central power could weaken the Ministry of Religious Affairs - currently among the most Stalinist government offices - and patriotic associations.

    As proof of a certain relaxation of control in the peripheries, Catholics are quoted as saying that the police leave underground communities room to breathe, are concerned about the health of the bishops (for fear of having to face a more serious crises in the case of an appointment ), maintain dialogue (perhaps to control) with underground priests .

    Instead other believers in Beijing and central China say that "nothing has changed" and that the situation is always the same: underground priests are imprisoned (such as the two mentioned above); meetings among the faithful are banned; the Patriotic Association's control is absolute. If you add to this the list of bishops that have disappeared in police custody over the years, the bishop of Shanghai still under house arrest, control over other bishops (even official ones), their conclusion is understandable: "So far, nothing has changed.  We'll see in a few months time if there is a change of policy. Anyway, this will depend on the idea of ​​reform that leadership has in mind : the concentration of all power in the hands of a few may even worsen the situation. "

    According to the activist Hu Jia , the concentration of power "may be used against human rights defenders, those who support the universal values ​​and freedom of speech and religion - people who the Party can not tolerate because they see them as a threat to government. "

    This is confirmed by the Xinhua reports on the final document of the third Plenum (The final official version of which has yet to be released) reiterates that all the reforms serve to reinforce the Chinese Communist Party's monopoly of power.

     

     

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    See also

    17/04/2012 CHINA - VATICAN
    Two underground bishops released, but many priests are arrested
    Bishop Shao Zhumin was arrested for four weeks, interrogated, brought on "vacation" away from his diocese, "recommended" to join the Patriotic Association. The model to follow: the excommunicated bishop Lei Shiyin. Bishop Jin Lugang detained for four days so he would not celebrate the Easter Triduum with the community. Dozens of underground priests are held for weeks and subjected to "political sessions". First the security of Communist Party's Congress and plan to eliminate the underground Church.

    29/07/2010 CHINA
    Xiwanzi underground priest arrested again after three years in prison
    Fr Peter Wang, an underground priest of the Diocese of Xiwanzi, was only able to take a few steps as a free man. The police arrested him again immediately after his release. He had been originally arrested for celebrating mass (with the permission of the government). Local Catholics: "The police want to force him to join the Patriotic Association."

    11/06/2014 CHINA-VATICAN
    Apostolic administrator of Yujiang arrested as China attempts to "eradicate" underground Church
    The priest, Fr. John Peng Weizhao, disappeared in police custody on 30 May and the authorities refuse to give news of his whereabouts. Many apostolic administrators and underground candidates for the episcopate suffer arrests and torture to stop their election and to facilitate rise of 'patriotic' candidates.

    01/09/2005 CHINA
    More than 10,000 faithful attend the funeral of Mgr Xie, underground Bishop of Mingdong


    05/08/2011 CHINA - VATICAN
    Fr. Chen Hailong, sequestered for four months to deny the pope, is freed
    He suffered isolation and hunger. To overcome loneliness and isolation, he drew a picture of the Blessed Sacrament on the wall of his cell, praying for a long time. The government wants to force him and other priests to register and subscribe to the PA, which wants to build a Church independent of the pope.



    Editor's choices

    CHINA - VATICAN
    Vatican silence over Shanghai’s Mgr Ma Daqin causing confusion and controversy

    Bernardo Cervellera

    For some, Mgr Ma’s blog post praising the Patriotic Association and acknowledging his mistakes is nothing but “dirt”. For others, he chose humiliation for the “sake of his diocese”. Many wonder why the Holy See has remained silent about the article’s content and the bishop’s persecution. Some suspect the Vatican views the episode in positive terms. Yet, the Ma Daqin affair raises a major question. Has Benedict XVI’s Letter to Chinese Catholics (which describes the Patriotic Association as “incompatible with Catholic doctrine”) been abolished? If it has, who did it? A journey of compromises without truth is full of risks.


    CHINA – VATICAN
    Mgr Ma Daqin: the text of his “confession”

    Mons. Taddeo Ma Daqin

    Four years after quitting the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, the bishop of Shanghai “admits” his faults on his blog, praising the organisation that controls the Church. We publish his article, almost in its entirety. Translation by AsiaNews.


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