05/17/2007, 00.00
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Two underground priests from Wenzhou soon to be freed

Shao Zhoumin, vicar general of the diocese of Wenzhou, and Fr. Jiang Sunian are set to be freed this summer. The two were charged with having falsified their passports. The “Insieme per Prato” association mobilizes itself for their release.

Rome (AsiaNews) – The release of two underground priests from the diocese of Wenzhou, arrested August last on their return from a pilgrimage to Rome, has been confirmed for this summer.


As previously reported by AsiaNews in April, Fr. Shao Zhoumin, vicar general of the diocese of Wenzhou (in the eastern Zhejiang province)  and Fr. Jiang Sunian, chancellor of the same diocese, were sentenced to 9 and 11 months respectively for having falsified their passports.


Given that they had already served the majority of their sentence before its pronouncement, Fr Shao will be released from prison in June, while Fr Jiang will be freed at the end of August.  Underground Catholics from Wenzhou are aware of the charges but so far no one has been able to visit the two priests.


Both Fr. Shao and Fr. Jiang have already been submitted to imprisonment, the first internment dating back to 1999.  Fr Shao was released after he was urgently hospitalized for an illness contracted during his prison stay.  In November of the same year Fr Jiang was stopped for having illegally published over 120 hymn booklets and subsequently formally arrested on December 23rd.

His sentence amounted to 6 years imprisonment and 270 thousand Yuan, but he was released on Christmas day 2003.


Bishop of the diocese of Wenzhou, msgr. James Lin Xili, was also arrested in September 1999 and is to this day confined to the Official Cathedral and denied freedom of movement.  He is currently suffering ill health.


The case of the two priests was also brought to the fore in Italy: infact in the city of Prato, near Florence, the “Insieme per Prato” association published an appeal for their release and had asked the province (twined with Wenzhou) to intervene with Chinese authorities.  The appeal was also directed at the Mayor of Wenzhou and the Chinese Government’s minister for Justice.  


The association intends to present the text of its appeal, which so far has reached over 350, in the next provincial meeting.  Their intervention was important in Fr. Jiang’s first release.


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