Arrested Underground Bishop's Life In Danger

September 23, 2007 Updated: September 23, 2007

Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy stated on September 16, 2007 that Bishop Jia Zhiguo, the underground Roman Catholic Bishop of the Zhengding Diocese in Hebei Province, has been suffering a serious illness since his detention by the public security police last month. Bishop Jia has not been hospitalized. If he is not released, his life will be in danger.

The Information Center quoted a priest who worked as Jia's assistant as saying that Jia Zhiguo, 73, was abducted by the public security police on August 23, and his whereabouts were unknown.

Jia Zhiguo was said to have been previously imprisoned for 20 years, which led to his poor health. In addition, he had undergone an operation for prostatitis. His health was not restored upon his arrest this time. However, so far Jia Zhiguo has not been hospitalized. Long-term detention again could pose a threat to his life.

The quoted priest said that Jia Zhiguo's abduction by the police is possibly associated with the approaching 17th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (The 17th Party Congress). At present, Hebei police are closely monitoring activities of underground Catholic churches.

Based on the Information Center, the Hebei Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Political and Judiciary Committee met at the 17th Party Congress Security and Protection Meeting to list the crackdown on “underground Catholic forces” as a primary mission to maintain safety prior to the 17th Party Congress. It is estimated that soon a large number of underground priests will be removed from Hebei for a “tour” or for the so-called “education classes.” They will not be allowed to return to Hebei until the end of October.

It was reported that most of the over fifty bishops ordained by the Vatican are above the age of 70. These bishops have been subjected to long-term detention and have thus suffered poor health. For instance, Bishop Han Dingxiang, the underground Roman Catholic Bishop of the Yongnian Diocese in Hebei passed away on September 9 during his imprisonment. He had been jailed for a total of 18 years and was released and hospitalized only one month before his death.