A Chinese bishop is back in detention, along with his vicar general, amid a long-running dispute between a group of Beijing-affiliated priests and a diocese of the underground church in the northern province of Hebei. Bishop Augustine Cui Tai of Xuanhua was arrested by police on 29 March, and his vicar general, Fr Zhang Jianlin, the previous day.
Bishop Cui has been detained regularly by the provincial government over the past 12 years. Recognised by the Holy See but not by the Chinese government, he had been denounced by a local priest who accused him of not following the agreement signed between China and the Holy See six months ago. “The government’s aim is to paralyse the diocese” a priest from the underground community, who declined to be named, told uca news; “if the diocese fails to manage the community, then the government will use this as an opportunity to take it over”. The Diocese of Xuanhua was founded by the Holy See since 1946, but in 1980 the government formed the official diocese of Zhangjiakou, joining it with that of Xuanhua. The diocese of Zhangjiakou is not recognised by the Holy See.
Critics say the Vatican has adopted a go-soft policy in China, with negotiations aimed at restoring ties between Beijing and the Holy See taking precedent over the plight of members of the underground church. The situation of clergy in detention remains unresolved. Religious liberties have been subjected to a crackdown over the past year across the country, with strengthened government oversight of religious activities.
Meanwhile, a prominent Catholic activist has been jailed in Hong Kong after a court refused to hear her appeal against a conviction for causing public disorder during demonstrations against land grabbing. Yip Po-lam of the Justice and Peace Commission of Hong Kong Diocese was jailed for two weeks on 27 March after participating in a protest outside the territory’s Legislative Council five years ago. Jackie Hung of the Commission expressed fears that jail time for peaceful protests, once tolerated in Hong Kong, is now on the increase.