07/26/2016, 19.10
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Beijing's tricks and violence to stop Chinese youth from reaching WYD

by Vincenzo Faccioli Pintozzi

The government yesterday blocked a group of 50 young pilgrims who had already boarded a plane bound for Krakow. Interrogated for hours by immigration, they were "admonished" and sent home with orders not to contact anyone abroad. Meanwhile, "young Chinese Catholics" hang around central World Youth Day locations in groups of five or six, with the task of spying on fellow countrymen. They work for cultural institutes or Chinese companies in Poland.

Krakow (AsiaNews) - The Chinese government yesterday stopped a group of 50 young pilgrims who had boarded a plane to Krakow, and forced them to get out and go home. The Beijing airport officials blocked the airplane, already on the runway, and detained the young people: immigration interrogated them for hours, they were "admonished" and sent home with orders not to contact anyone abroad. The news was reported to AsiaNews by a young Chinese Catholic, now in Poland, who learned of the episode from his parish priest who had been in charge of leading the delegation.

The blocked group consisted of young people from Beijing and surrounding dioceses. Having failed to find European sponsors that would guarantee for them, they simply visited the Polish consular office in the Chinese capital to apply for a visa. On having obtained the document, they bought tickets and boarded the plane. The government accuses them of having "violated the guidelines for traveling abroad," and withdrew their passports, threatening the pastor with "serious consequences" if attempted to "violate the law" again.

The AsiaNews source, anonymous for security reasons, said that despite this, the Chinese presence - from the mainland, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan - is still "considerable. We are talking about several thousand people, maybe even 8 thousand throughout the Chinese world. We are very happy to be here and to be able to see the Pope and pray with him”.

However, a shadow hangs over their pilgrimage in this XXXI World Youth Day: "All those with whom I have just spoken are sad and they are afraid of what will happen when they get back home. It is not good to live like that".

Beijing intends to closely monitor compatriots who managed to make it to the events around World Youth Day, and to do so have dusted off a Maoist era trick: he asked the employees of Chinese companies in Poland and officials of different Chinese cultural institutes in Poland to go around WYD sites carrying the Chinese flag, to approach other Catholic groups of countrymen and try to get the most information possible.

This morning, in the great Mariacki square dominated by the cathedral dedicated to the Virgin, one of these small groups were visibly waving their red flag. On being approached, they said they were from Hebei province - the "tronghold" of Chinese Catholicism - and explained that it was "easy" to get here to be with young people from around the world. When asked about their diocese of origin, however, they were unable to respond; to the question as to who their bishop was - also asked in Chinese - they asked what a bishop was. To the last question, asking who the priest who accompanied them was, they responded "we do not need one".

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