08/26/2011, 00.00
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Heze, 2 years hard labour for Fr. Wang for refusing to submit to PA

by Jian Mei
The priest is the diocesan administrator of the underground community. Relatives friends barred from visiting him during detention, but a Catholic source tells AsiaNews: "He was condemned for his firmness in refusing to subscribe to the Patriotic Association." The community asks the universal Church and the Holy See to pray for him and do everything for his release. Meanwhile, 30 believers from Tianshui released.
Beijing (AsiaNews) - The Chinese government yesterday condemned Fr. Wang Chengli - diocesan administrator of the underground community in Heze Diocese (Caozhou) in Shandong province – to two years of "re-education through labour", probably because he refused to join the Chinese government’s Catholic Patriotic Association.

The sentence was handed down on 25 August. The Heze priest, 48, was transferred from the detention centre in Dongming, , to the re-education centre of Jining: more than 150 kilometers away. The government has not allowed the family (or anyone else) to visit him during detention, so the details of his conviction are not clear, however, some Heze Catholic sources have told AsiaNews that it is connected to his firmness in refusing to subscribe to the PA.

The same Catholic sources believe that the ruling against Fr. Wang could be related to the issue of the ordination of the bishop of the official church of Heze. "Re-education through labour" is a sentence imposed by the Public Security offices which aims to reform political and religious dissidents, and minor offences.

Legal and human rights advocates describe it as a punishment with a system of detention without trial or means of appeal. Some estimate more than 300 thousand people in the country are being detained in re-education centers. The police detained Fr. Wang and three other priests late at night on August 3 and took them to the detention centre of Dongming County.

They were reportedly not allowed to eat in the beginning of their detention, but were given food afterwards. Except Father Wang, the other three priests have been released earlier, and are doing pastoral work quietly in the area. Prayer houses, are closely monitored by officials. A relative of Fr Wang says that the priest has high blood pressure and that the family is afraid for his health. The family, all natives of Shandong, have been Catholic for generations.

Heze Catholics urgently ask members of the universal Church and the Holy See to pray for Fr Wang and work for his release. The priest, born in Yanzhou, has led the underground community in Heze in recent years. Ordained a priest in 1991, Wang this year celebrated the 20th anniversary of his ordination.

Meanwhile, the group of 30 Catholics in the underground community in Tianshui diocese (Gansu) was released yesterday. The group included retired Bishop Casmirus Wang Milu, administrator Father Wang Ruohan, several priests and about 20 lay leaders. A Catholic source told AsiaNews that they are "happy to see their return." In the evening prayer "we thanked the Lord."

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