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03/02/2022 China (International Christian Concern) – It has been nine months since a Chinese bishop in Henan province was taken away by the local authorities to an unknown place. His family and church members still have no news of his whereabouts.

The fate of Bishop Joseph Zhang Weizhu, who leads the Xinxiang diocese, is a concern to many. After he had returned from the hospital for a cancer operation, he disappeared in police custody on May 21, 2021. Along with him, ten priests and ten seminarians had also been arrested in a large police operation involving 100 officers from Cangzhou, Hejian, and Shaheqiao.

According to Asia News, the seminarians returned to their homes after a few days and were forbidden to continue their theology studies. After a few “political sessions” to instill in them the “religious freedom” that they could enjoy on condition that they submit to the Chinese Communist Party, the priests also returned to their homes. The bishop, however, never returns and continues to be detained illegally.

Under Chinese law, anyone who is not indicted cannot be detained for more than three months. However, the 63-year-old bishop has been held for nine months without any charge. Unlike other similar cases, the bishop was not allowed to return to his family for a single day during the Chinese New Year, a time when people gathered and share meals together. The police only allowed two people to visit the prelate for a few minutes while the police watched them.

Bishop Zhang has been the bishop of Xinxiang since 1991. As a clergy recognized and loyal to the Holy See, he is deemed as “illegal” by Beijing. In recent years, through “re-education” efforts, the Chinese government has been trying to coerce the underground bishops to join the “official church.” Those who refuse to cooperate often end up with ongoing harassment and intimidation.

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