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AsiaNews – Public security officials of Hebei arrested six Catholic priests from Zhengding diocese on 18 November. This is the diocese of Mgr Giulio Jia Zhiguo. The arrests were reported by the Kung Foundation.

Fr Wang Jin Shan and Fr Gao Lingshen, both over 50 years, were not only arrested but also brutally beaten. The other four priests – Fr Zhang Xiuchi, 60 years; Fr Zhang Yinhu, 45; Fr Guo Zhijun, 36 and Fr Peng Jianjun, 30 – were first confined to house arrest and formally arrested shortly afterwards. At the moment, they are being detained in the Gaochen Security Bureau.

Their bishop, Mgr Jia, is still in custody since his arrest on 8 November, the eighth time since 2004. When they arrested him, police said the bishop was being taken away for a “study session”. This is the term used to describe repeated attempts by the authorities to talk the bishop into joining the Patriotic Association (AP), the organization which seeks to control church communities, working towards a Church that is independent from the pope.

On 7 November, Fr Li Suchuan, 40 years, and Fr Yang Ermeng, 35 years, also hailing from Zhengding diocese, were arrested by security officials and taken away from their parishes in the villages of Zhoujiazhuang and Zhoutou respectively, both in Jinzhou area. The two priests were released on 21 November by Hebei public security officials the day after American President George W. Bush left China . They returned to their parishes however they have received orders and threats since taking up their ministry again.

Hebei is the region in China with the highest density of Catholics (more than 1.5 million), where underground Catholics, that is, those who are not recognized by the government, make up a strong majority.