U.S. President George W. Bush today asked Chinese President Jiang Zemin to release the bishops who are in prison in China, a top Bush aide said.
On Feb. 12, the Vatican missionary agency Fides published a list of 33 bishops and priests who have been arrested or prohibited from exercising their ministry in China, in the hope of initiating a campaign of prayer for them during Lent.
The bishops and priests are members of the "clandestine Church," that is, not officially recognized either by the Chinese government or the Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA), the state-controlled "church."
Fides sources said all those on the list were arrested or restricted because they refused to belong to the CCPA.
Following is the list of the 33 incarcerated leaders. Fides explained that it is incomplete because there are at least 20 more cases, but their names are not known.
--James Su Zhimin, 70, Baoding Diocese, Hebei, disappeared after arrest in 1996. --Francis An Shuxin, 52, auxiliary of Baoding, disappeared after arrest in 1997.
--Li Hongye, 81, Luoyang Diocese, Henan; arrested last year.
--Han Dingxian, 64, Yongnian/Handan Diocese, Hebei; arrested in December 1999. In the past, has spent about 20 years in prison.
--Cosmo Shi Enxiang, 81, Yixian Diocese, Hebei, arrested last April 13. He was ordained a bishop in 1982. He had been in prison for about 30 years. The last previous arrest was in December 1990. He was released in 1993.
Bishops prevented from exercising ministry
Many unofficial bishops are periodically arrested and then allowed to return to their churches. However, they are kept under strict control and prevented from exercising their ministry. These include:
--Bartholomew Yu Chengti, 72, bishop of Hanzhong, Shaanxi; since December 2001 under house arrest. His priests are not allowed to visit him.
--Joseph Fan Zhongliang, 83, Shanghai Diocese.
--Han Jingtao, 80, Jilin Diocese.
--Julius Jia Zhiguo, 66, Zhengding Diocese, Hebei.
--John Yang Shudao, 82, Fuzhou Diocese, Fujian. Archbishop Yang in the past has spent 30 years in prison. He was arrested in 1955 for refusing to join the CCPA. Released in 1981, he was imprisoned again in 1988 for three years. Now alternately he is subject to arrests and control.
--Thomas Zeng Jingmu, 81, Yujiang Diocese, Jiangxi.
--Xie Shiguang, 84, Mindong Diocese, Fujian; arrested in October 1999. When he was arrested, the police say, he was "taken for a talk" with government members and then to an unidentified place. Bishop Xie always refused to comply with the government's order to register the underground Church of Mindong officially. The bishop was soon given his "freedom, but under control."
--James Lin Xili, 82, Wenzhou Diocese, Zhejiang; arrested September 1999; released beginning of this year.
This region has the most Catholics (about 1 million). The underground Church is widespread -- and among the ones most subject to police control.
--Cui Xingang, detained in Qingyuan county.
--Guo Yibao, called to report to police in Xushui, since Easter 2000 held in Xushui prison.
--Li Jianbo di Mancheng, 35, arrested last April 19, Xilinhaute, Inner Mongolia.
--Lu Genyou (or Genjun), unofficial vicar general of Baoding Diocese. Arrested just before Easter, last March 31. On April 13, Baoding authorities sentenced him to three years forced labor, in Gaoyang prison. The charges are listed on the sentence: received theological formation; ordained with the recognition of the CCPA of Hebei; refuses to join the CCPA; for evangelizing, celebrating Mass, and preaching outside authorized places.
--Wang Zhenhe, of Anjiazhuang, arrested on April 14, 1999. Detained in Xushui prison.
--Yin Zhengjun, arrested Jan. 27, 2001, in Beihezhuang village, Qingyuan county. Last April sentenced to three years re-education through labor. He is in Baoding prison.
--Zhang Chunguang, arrested on eve of Pentecost 2001, by Chongli county police. Since then detained in Xushui prison with Father Guo Yibao.
Between Jan. 6-13, two priests of the underground Church were arrested: Wang Zeyi, 31, and Zhang Sulai, 50.
On Nov. 23, 1999, Jiang Sunian was arrested. Since Dec. 23, 1999, his whereabouts are unknown. He is one of six priests who have been arrested by the Wenzhou police.
John Gao Kexian, 74, of Yantai Diocese, abducted in October 1999. The diocese was entrusted to the Franciscans in 1949 when it had 12,000 Catholics. Today there are more than 30,000.
FUJIAN Feng Yunxiang, arrested Good Friday, April 13, at Fuan.
Priests recently released but prevented from ministering
--Hu Tongxian: arrested and brutally beaten at Christmas 1998. Sentenced to three years re-education through labor, detained at Gaoyang. Released last April 14, but not allowed to minister as a priest.
--Ji Zengwei, arrested in 2000, in Beihezhuang village, Qingyuan county, during Ash Wednesday service. House arrest in Anxin county. On Feb. 5, 2001, he obtained freedom irregularly. Some weeks he is under house arrest; other weeks he has more freedom.
--Xie Guolin di Xuguozhuang, Gaoyang county. Arrested at his home on Nov. 4, 1999. Detained in Gaoyang prison. Released on Jan. 22, 2001, due to serious health conditions.
--Zhang Weizhu, Xianxian Diocese, 43. Very active priest, has started two religious orders.
Last July 10, in Jiangxi, southeast China, police arrested 16 priests of the underground Church, persecuted for loyalty to the Pope. During the night, local police agents took Liao Haiqing of Yujiang from his home. Then they broke into a study meeting of 15 priests of the same district, arresting those present. Liao Haiqing, 72, has already spent 17 years in prison in the 1950s and between 1980 to 1990. Father Liao has been periodically arrested and released.
Most of those arrested in 2001 were given a police certificate of release. But the CCPA insists that each one must sign a document of membership to the association. The young priests refuse and remain in prison.
Three priests, Du Baozang, Zan Jianzhou and Zan Shengrang (Hanzhong Diocese), were arrested Nov. 2 for "re-education" to make them join the CCPA. The priests refused. Released Dec. 7, the priests were exiled to remote parts of the province. They are not allowed to meet their Bishop Bartolomeo Yu Chengti.