Hebei Provincial Officials Detain Five Groups of Unregistered Catholics

April 4, 2006

Public security officers in Hebei province detained five groups of unregistered Catholic clerics during November. Hebei province has been for many years among the places in China where Catholics are most harshly persecuted. These detentions mark the first time NGO sources have reported five detentions of unregistered Chinese Catholics in a single month. About 25 percent of China's Catholics live in Hebei. According to a September 27 AsiaNews report, provincial officials currently are conducting a campaign of repression against Catholics in the province. As of July 31, thirty-one of the 41 Catholic clerics in prison, under house arrest, or under strict surveillance were from Hebei province, and 18 of 41 were from the Baoding diocese, according to a list of Prisoners of Religious Conscience for the Underground Catholic Church in China published by the Cardinal Kung Foundation (CKF), a U.S. NGO.

Hebei officials took the following actions in November 2005:

  • On November 18, officials detained Wang Jinshan, Gao Lingshen, Guo Zhijun, Zhang Xiuchi, Peng Jianjun, and Zhang Yinhu, all unregistered priests of Zhengding diocese in Hebei province, according to a CKF report. According to an AsiaNews report, officials formally arrested at least the latter four clerics. In a December 1 article Wen Wei Po (Hong Kong) reported that Hebei officials denied the report, claiming that provincial authorities regularly run a "study class" for government officials, personnel of government-approved religious organizations, "and people from such religious organizations as 'underground churches'..."
  • On or about November 17, officials detained unregistered Catholic priest Gao Baojin and seminarians Shi Junlong, Min Zhiyong, Shi Chenguang, Liu Zhongfeng, Liu Yuntao, Huang Yutao, and Lu Yanhui, according to a December 7 AsiaNews report. All serve in the unregistered diocese of Zhaoxian in Hebei province. Officials subjected them to indoctrination about government religious policies, deprived them of sleep, drugged them, and attempted to coerce them into signing a statement expressing willingness to be ordained by a bishop of the official church. Officials released the seminarians on December 3, according to AsiaNews, but the whereabouts of Gao are unknown.
  • On November 12, officials detained unregistered Catholic priest Yang Jianwei and seminarians Fan Fubin, Wang Yongliang, Wang Chunlei, and Li Yutao, all from Baoding diocese in Hebei province, and six unnamed seminarians from elsewhere, according to a CKF report. Officials released the non-Baoding seminarians after three days, but the others remain in detention.
  • On November 8, officials detained Jia Zhiguo, unregistered bishop of Zhengding diocese in Hebei province, according to a CKF report. According to an AsiaNews report, officials took Jia to a “study session” at which they pressured him into joining the state-controlled Catholic Patriotic Association. This detention marked the eighth time since 2004 that officials have detained Bishop Jia.
  • On November 7, officials detained Li Suchuan and Yang Ermeng, unregistered priests in the diocese of Zhengding in Hebei province, according to a CKF report. Officials released them on November 21, according to an AsiaNews report.

AsiaNews, an Italian Catholic news agency, has provided Hebei Catholics with a forum in which to voice their opposition to this persecution. In June 2005, AsiaNews published a letter protesting religious persecution sent by Catholics in Hebei province. Following the November 2005 series of detentions, AsiaNews published the reflections of an unidentified Hebei Catholic. The writer judged that the persecution in Hebei has strengthened the Church in that province, by leading to conversions, an increase in religious vocations, and an increase in sympathy for the unregistered Catholics among registered Catholics. The writer claimed that, as religious belief becomes a more normal feature of Chinese society, such persecution only damages the reputation of the State Administration for Religious Affairs and the central government.

For more information on Catholics and Protestants in China, see the CECC 2005 Annual Report, Section III(d).