Authorities in China's Hubei Province have taken a group of Chinese priests who were deemed "unofficial" or unaffiliated with state-approved churches.
At least 10 "unofficial" Chinese priests have been detained by police in Hebei Province, China. The priests are from the underground Catholic community of Baoding. International Christian Concern's Regional Manager for Southeast Asia Gina Goh lamented that Beijing continues to "make believe that the Chinese Catholic Church is thriving" in the country.
"The truth is, underground Catholics in China continue to suffer. Their leaders are subject to patriotic education and coerced into joining the official church," Goh declared, as per ICC News. House church leaders who refuse to comply with Chinese religious laws then become "victims of enforced disappearance like the case of the ten priests in Baoding."
Goh also called upon the Vatican to "intervene and stand up for justice."
Other Catholic Priests Begin Search of the 10 Missing Church Leaders
The 10 "unofficial" Chinese priests began disappearing as early as January this year and as recently as April 29 and 30, Asia News reported. Other priests and faithful in the Baoding community have launched their own search for the missing priests, asking village policemen about their whereabouts or finding a way to communicate with detainees. But all were in vain.
Hebei Province authorities have reportedly subjected the 10 "unofficial" Chinese priests to a "guanzhi," described as a restriction of movement and activities paired with forced participation in political sessions to coax them to join China's official church.
Among the 10 "unofficial" Chinese priests taken by Hubei Province authorities are Father Chen Hechao, who was taken back in January, Father Ji Fu Hou, Father Maligang, Father Yang Guanglin, and Father Shang Mancang, who were taken in April. The report said that Father Yang Jianwei and Father Zhang Chunguang were taken at 4 p.m. on April 29 from the Xushui village in Baoding. No one has heard from them since.
Also Read: Chinese Court Summons Pastor of Closed Down House Church Over 'Illegal Religious Activities
Meanwhile, Fathers Zhang Zhenquan and Yin Shuangxi disappeared on April 29, while Father Zhang Shouxin was taken on April 30. These abductions are nothing new for the community in Baoding, which is the oldest and largest underground Catholic community in Hebei Province. Back in 2016, Father Yang Jianwei was taken by Chinese authorities during a driving test. In November 2020, two priests and more than a dozen seminary members and nuns were taken by force by government officials. During their detention, they undergo forced political indoctrination sessions and are banned from contacting their loved ones. Most of them are later released but continue to be the subject of persecution by the Chinese authorities.
In April, Spanish journalist Pablo M. Diez spoke to Angelus News, describing China's President Xi Jinping as "the most authoritarian leader since Mao Zedong." He also noted that under President Xi's leadership, Christians face continued harassment. He cited cases such as that of the José Fan Zhonglian and Cosme Shi Enxiang, a pair of imprisoned and tortured martyr bishops who were placed under house arrest for 14 years until their death. Diez also cited China's "massive campaign" against churches in Zhejiang, where 1,800 crosses had been removed and places of worship were destroyed.
Related Article: Chinese Christian Shares How Churches Thrive Despite Communist Party-Sponsored Persecution