China arrested several Catholic priests and students and sent them to "political sessions" for reprogramming as part of the Communist leadership's crackdown on religious activity.
Approximately 100 policemen surrounded a factory that served as a seminary and arrested 7 priests and 10 students, according to Asia News. The arrests occurred on May 20 in the city of Xinxiang in the Henan province. The arrests took place just days before a week of prayer was scheduled to begin on May 23.
One day after the arrests, Chinese authorities took the bishop of Xinxiang, 63-year-old Joseph Zhang Weizhu, into custody. The government made the arrests under new regulations that require any Catholic leaders to register with the government before conducting services. The bishop and other arrestees were operating illegally without registering with the Communist Party's database of Catholic priests in the country.
The Chinese government does not recognize the Apostolic Prefecture of Xinxiang, of which the Catholic priests and students are members. The Apostolic Prefecture has been in operation for decades. Several "underground" bishops, appointed by the Vatican but not approved by the Chinese government, including Zhang Weizhu, operate under the threat of arrest. Zhang Weizhu has been arrested on a number of occasions for his defiance of the government.
In 2020, Vatican leadership and the Chinese government renewed a two-year agreement on the ordainment of bishops who would be allowed to operate under the eye of the Chinese government. The Vatican touted the two-year agreement as normalizing relations with Beijing, which insisted on approving Catholic leadership in the country. After the initial agreement in 2018, the Vatican approved of state-ordained bishops and the Chinese government approved of Vatican-appointed bishops.
The arrests come as the Vatican issued a call for Catholics around the world to participate with their fellow Chinese believers in "fervent prayer" during the week of prayer.
Catholics are not the only religious minority being targeted by the Chinese government. China has committed state-sponsored genocide against its Muslim Uyghur minority, subjecting the religious group to forced labor, sterilization, and reeducation camps.
Published under: China