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China Detains Underground Catholic Church Bishop - 2002-03-25

A human-rights group says Chinese police have detained an elderly bishop from China's underground Catholic Church.

The President of the U.S.-based Cardinal Kung Foundation, Joseph Kung, says Bishop Jia Zhiguo disappeared from his home in northern China last Wednesday. "We do not have any idea [why]," he said. "All we know is that people from the Public Security Department [police] came in and took him away, and we do not know where he is, and we are worried."

Police and religious affairs officials in the area say they know nothing of the case.

The Foundation says the 67-year-old bishop had spent two decades in prison for teaching and practicing his beliefs and was under strict surveillance at the time of his detention. He has been a bishop since 1980, and previously tangled with Chinese authorities while he was running a home for mentally and physically handicapped children, some of whom had been abandoned by their parents.

Two different Catholic Church organizations exist in China. The Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association has about four million followers and operates under the supervision of the Communist Party. The other is an underground Catholic Church, in which the clergy is supervised by the Pope in Rome. The illegal, underground organization is also thought to have several million followers in China.

The Kung Foundation says the roughly 50 Catholic Bishops appointed by the Pope to supervise churches loyal to Rome are in trouble with Chinese authorities. "Most every one of them is either in jail, or they are detained somewhere or they are under house arrest, or they are under surveillance, or they are on the run or they are hiding," he said.

The Cardinal Kung Foundation is named for a Catholic cleric who was imprisoned by Chinese Communist authorities for decades for his refusal to renounce the authority of the Party over religious matters. Foundation President Joseph Kung is the Cardinal's nephew. He spoke from his office in Stamford, Connecticut.