ICC Note: Here is some updated information on the 2 priests arrested in September on false charges.
Catholics arrested after Vatican trip
10/12/06 China (IOL) Chinese police have arrested two leaders of an underground Catholic church after they returned from a visit to the Vatican , a rights group and local officials said on Thursday.
Shao Zhumin, the deputy head of the underground church in the south-eastern city of Wenzhou , and church official Jiang Sunian were formally charged by police on Wednesday, the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said.
Wenzhou police travelled to the southern port of Shenzhen to arrest the two men when they returned to China on September 25, the group said.
Patriotic Catholic Association confirmed by telephone that the two leaders of the underground church were arrested.
Shao and Jiang are accused of illegally leaving China by using other people’s identities and face likely sentences of about one year in prison, the Information Centre said.
Shao was released early in 2003 after he was sentenced to six years in prison in 1999 for illegally printing Bibles, it said.
China officially has about 16-million Christians, but activists claim the true figure is closer to 40-million.
It does not normally grant passports to clergy from underground Catholic churches, to prevent them having contact with the Vatican , the Information Centre said.
All religious organizations must register with government supervisory bodies, but many Christian groups refuse to do so, claiming their religious freedom is too restricted within China ‘s official churches.
Police and officials forcibly disband illegal Christian and other religious groups. Their leaders face criminal charges, and buildings used for underground religious activity are often demolished.