Faithful in Henan call for Bishop Zhang Weizhu’s release after a year in prison

Police took the bishop of Xinxiang into custody on 21 May 2021, holding him without charges or trial at an unknown location in violation of Chinese law. Two family members saw him for a few minutes during Lunar New Year celebrations. Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s Card Zen risks being silenced.

Rome (AsiaNews) – Police arrested Bishop Joseph Zhang Weizhu of Xinxiang (Henan) on 21 May 2021. Since then, he has been illegally held without charges or trial.

No priest is allowed to visit him or call him. Neither the faithful nor his family know about his whereabouts, local sources told AsiaNews.

Bishop Zhang was arrested along with 10 priests and 10 seminarians. When they were taken into custody, the authorities seized documents, papers and books from the seminary, which was actually the upper floor of a parishioner's factory.

Several computers were also confiscated, including that of the diocesan treasurer. The seminarians were sent home three days after their detention. The priests followed a few days later.

Under Chinese law, no one can be held in solitary confinement without charges for more than three months. Bishop Zhang has been held for a year at an unknown location.

Unlike other similar cases, the prelate was not even allowed to go home on a day furlough for Lunar New Year celebrations. Police only allowed two relatives to see him for just a few minutes in the presence of an officer.

Still, the Catholic community in Xinxiang hopes to see their bishop released soon. Meanwhile, they and the local clergy are extremely concerned about his physical and mental health.

Unfortunately, no one speaks out on behalf of Chinese bishops. The latest case involves Card Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, Hong Kong’s bishop emeritus who was arrested recently. He was eventually released to await trial.

He has always supported religious freedom in China and freedom for the underground Church; now he too risks being silenced.