Beijing (AsiaNews) – Since last January, at least two underground priests (in communion with the Pope), from Xuanhua dioceses (Hebei), near Beijing, have been detained and badly beaten up. They are among at least 20 underground priests in Xuanhua and Xiwanzi dioceses have been tortured and pressured to “register” with the government-sponsored Church associated with the Communist Party-controlled Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association over the past two decades, sources, anonymous per request, told AsiaNews.
On 9 April, Fr Chen Hailong of Xuanhua was taken away by officials in Yanqing Beijing County, and has not yet been released by today, 12 April, the source told AsiaNews.
Fr Zhang Guangjun, also from Xuanhua diocese, was detained in February, and badly beaten. His family was allowed to take him out on March 29 for medical treatment. He had bruises to the head and the legs, and had been visibly tortured.
Fr Zhang was tortured for refusing to concelebrate and to register and get the “priest card” as a means of accepting the independent and self-managed Church. “To concelebrate (with patriotic priests) is never possible. As being held, I don’t expect to leave here freely,” he was quoted as saying.
As early as 13 January, he was brought away from a layperson’s home by officials disguised as technicians who had come to check the gas system. He was taken to a hotel in Zhuolu County, and barred from sleep for five nights.
After a short release for the Lunar New Year in February, Father Zhang reported to the local united front work office on March 8 but was badly beaten up and tortured.
According to sources in Zhangjiakou area, since 1990s, more than 20 priests from Xuanhua and Xiwanzi dioceses were detained, beaten, jailed, sent to study sessions in order to get them “registered” and “surfaced”.
“We are angry at the threats, violence and inhumane means used by the government officials to go against the priests,” sources noted.
“As the state advocates the building of harmonious society and religious freedom, we, as Catholics in China, hope the government would release all the detained clergy and respect their conscience,” they said.
In addition, at least eight priests have been taken to undergo study sessions: Tian Yongfeng, Pei Youming, Hu Huibing, Liang Aijun, Wang Yongsheng, Yang Quanyi, Gao Jinbao and Zhang Guilin.
Below is a list of priests in Zhangjiakou area, who were detained and tortured since 1990s, compiled by Catholics in Hebei:
1990s: Father Wang Jiansheng and Father Cui Tai detained and jailed for 3 years; Father Zhang Li arrested, sentenced and jailed.
August 2006: Father Li Huisheng arrested in Zhangbei county, beaten up badly and hospitalized, sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment, and still serving sentence.
Winter 2007: Father Wang Zhong arrested in Guyuan county, and jailed for three years. He has finished serving the sentence but under surveillance.
September 2007: Father Yu Zhongxun taken away for the second time, tortured. He was tied onto a basketball backboard for one night, stooped for more than 10 days, and burned by cigarettes butts all over his body, and forced to drink “chili waters”.
July 2008: Father Zhang Jianlin arrested and detained for seven months, tortured and now under surveillance.
8 June, 2009: Father Liu Jianzhong arrested, prevented to sleep for six days, and stood and physically tortured for 18 hours each day, detained for six months.
14 June, 2009: Father Zhang Cunhui taken away by officials on his way to say Mass, forced to undergo study sessions for eight months.
30 May, 2010 (Trinity Sunday): Fr Wang Jiancheng and Li De taken by officials on their way to say Mass. Father Li was released after 2 months’ detention, during which he was disallowed to sleep and physically tortured. Father Wang was released after six months’ detention and now under surveillance.
February 2011: Father Ren He of Xiwanzi diocese taken and detained when leading a retreat for laypeople at a Catholic’s home.