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4/13/2011 China (AsiaNews) – Since last January, at least two underground priests (in communion with the Pope), from Xuanhua dioceses (Hebei), near Beijing, have been detained and badly beaten up. They are among at least 20 underground priests in Xuanhua and Xiwanzi dioceses have been tortured and pressured to “register” with the government-sponsored Church associated with the Communist Party-controlled Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association over the past two decades, sources, anonymous per request, told AsiaNews.

On 9 April, Fr Chen Hailong of Xuanhua was taken away by officials in Yanqing Beijing County, and has not yet been released by today, 12 April, the source told AsiaNews.

Fr Zhang Guangjun, also from Xuanhua diocese, was detained in February, and badly beaten. His family was allowed to take him out on March 29 for medical treatment. He had bruises to the head and the legs, and had been visibly tortured.

Fr Zhang was tortured for refusing to concelebrate and to register and get the “priest card” as a means of accepting the independent and self-managed Church. “To concelebrate (with patriotic priests) is never possible. As being held, I don’t expect to leave here freely,” he was quoted as saying.

As early as 13 January, he was brought away from a layperson’s home by officials disguised as technicians who had come to check the gas system. He was taken to a hotel in Zhuolu County, and barred from sleep for five nights.

After a short release for the Lunar New Year in February, Father Zhang reported to the local united front work office on March 8 but was badly beaten up and tortured.

According to sources in Zhangjiakou area, since 1990s, more than 20 priests from Xuanhua and Xiwanzi dioceses were detained, beaten, jailed, sent to study sessions in order to get them “registered” and “surfaced”.

 “We are angry at the threats, violence and inhumane means used by the government officials to go against the priests,” sources noted.

“As the state advocates the building of harmonious society and religious freedom, we, as Catholics in China, hope the government would release all the detained clergy and respect their conscience,” they said.

In addition, at least eight priests have been taken to undergo study sessions: Tian Yongfeng, Pei Youming, Hu Huibing, Liang Aijun, Wang Yongsheng, Yang Quanyi, Gao Jinbao and Zhang Guilin.

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