Stamford, Connecticut, U.S.A. - Eight underground Roman Catholic priests and two underground Roman Catholic seminarians were arrested on August 6 at approximately 6 PM in the Sujiazhuang Village 宿家莊 of Quyang County 曲陽縣 in Hebei Province 河北 while they were attending a religious retreat. Among those arrested are Father HUO Junlong 霍俊龍, the administrator of Baoding 保定 Diocese in Hebei, Fathers ZHANG Zhenquan 張振全, QIAO Juwei 喬聚偉, QIN Yingshan 秦英閃, AN Jianzhao 安建召, LI Yongshun 李永順, MA Wuyong 馬武勇 of Baoding, Father HUANG Chunshou 黃春收 of Sujiazhung Village, and seminarian LI Jinhu 李金虎of Baoding. The name of one more seminarian arrested is unknown. Approximately twenty police vehicles and a large number of security policemen surrounded Sujiazhuang Village and conducted a house to house search in order to arrest these priests and seminarians. Because of the remote location of Sujiazhuang Village, plus the fact that most villagers stayed in the house during the raid, it appears that no one even realized that the target of the police raid was for underground religious. The whole operation was carried out so swiftly that few villagers even know the names of those arrested. They are now detained in the Baoding Security Bureau.
Nine out of ten religious arrested this time belong to the Baoding diocese. Baoding and its neighboring villages have a rich tradition of strong faith, courage and martyrdom. It is the home of more than 40 of the 120 new martyr-saints canonized by Pope John Paul II on October 1, 2000. Bishop SU Zhi-Ming 蘇志民主教, the underground Roman Catholic Bishop of Baoding, was arrested by the Chinese government almost seven years ago on October 8, 1997. He was seen only once when he was accidentally discovered on November 15, 2003 while he was hospitalized in a Baoding hospital. Once discovered, he was taken away again without a trace. We do not know if he is now dead or alive. Bishop AN Shuxin 安樹新主教, the Auxiliary Bishop of Baoding, was also arrested by the government more than eight years ago in March 1996. He also has not been seen since then. We also do not know his whereabouts and his condition or if he is dead or alive. In addition, eight other Baoding priests arrested previously are still in jail. Including the nine that were arrested this time, there are at least nineteen underground religious in various jails at this time in the Baoding diocese alone.
No account of the persecution of the underground Roman Catholic Baoding diocese is complete without reminding the public about the complete destruction of the Marian shrine in Dong Lu 東呂, which is a tiny village in the Baoding diocese, and which has a history of continuous pilgrimage from all over China for more than a hundred years.More than eight years ago in April 1996, shortly before the annual pilgrimage was to begin in May, 5,000 Chinese soldiers, supported by dozens of armed cars and helicopters, sealed off this tiny village called Dong Lu. The soldiers completely destroyed this Shrine and confiscated the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. At the same time, they arrested Bishops SU Zhimin and AN Shuxin mentioned above. They also arrested the pastor of this Shrine. After approximately eight years in jail, the pastor was exiled overseas.
Joseph Kung 龔民權, the President of the Cardinal Kung Foundation 龔樞機基金會, said: "While the whole world is in awe at the performance and the spirit of the Olympic Games, the Chinese government, who will be hosting the 2008 Olympic Games, failed to respect such Olympic spirits and violated its own constitution guaranteeing religious freedom by raiding and jailing these innocent religious personnel. This assault on Baoding Diocese is a strong example of the Chinese government's determination to destroy the underground Roman Catholic Church in China as instructed in its many internal secret documents to their local governments. Some of these documents have been posted on our website. We appeal to the international community and to the Olympic International Committee to reassess whether a country like China with such a dismal record of human rights should be awarded the honor of hosting the Olympic Games while such atrocities go on."