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Chinese detain 21 Catholics as U.N. rights panel meets

OXFORD, England (BP)–A bishop, seven priests and 13 lay members of China’s unofficial Catholic Church have been detained by authorities, according to a U.S.-based advocacy group. Most were arrested during the church’s holiest week, leading up to Easter, the Internet news service Newsroom-online.com reported April 23, citing reports from the Cardinal Kung Foundation of Stamford, Conn.

The detentions also occurred as the U.N. Human Rights Commission was holding month-long meetings in Geneva, Switzerland.

Bishop Shi Enxiang of Yixian in Hebei province was arrested on April 13, Good Friday, while visiting Beijing, the Cardinal Kung Foundation reported. The bishop had been in hiding since authorities tried to arrest him in 1996, the foundation said. About 30 of Shi’s 79 years have been spent in jail, most recently from 1990-93.

In the 1950s, the Chinese government under communist leader Mao Zedung forced all Catholics to join the state-controlled Catholic Patriotic Association (CPA), which rejects ties to the Vatican. Membership in the CPA is about 4 million, but Western researchers say another 8 million are part of the unregistered, or underground, Catholic Church.

Also on April 13, authorities arrested priest Feng Yunxiang in Fu An City, Fujian province, and 13 Catholic laypeople in Linchuan, Jianxi province. Another priest, Liao Haiqing, was arrested on the same day in Fuzhou, Jiangxi, but has been released.

Priest Lu Genjun, 39, was arrested shortly before Easter, April 15, in Baoding, Hebei. Lu was immediately sentenced to three years in the Gao Yang County labor camp in Hebei. Three other Catholic priests were arrested with Lu but their names are unknown, the Kung Foundation said.

On April 19, priest Li Jianbo, 34, of Manchang County, Hebei, was arrested in Xilinhaute, Inner Mongolia. The foundation also reported that a Father Yin, whose full name is not known, was sentenced in April to labor camp for three years. He was arrested in Qingyuan County, Hebei, in January.

In Geneva, meanwhile, human rights groups condemned a successful move by China to keep discussion of its human rights record off the agenda of the United Nations Human Rights Commission’s meetings. The procedural maneuver was supported by Russia and major Asian, African and Arab nations and has been employed successfully for the past several years, said New York-based Human Rights in China (HRIC).

Resolutions on human rights in China have been introduced nine times since 1990, but not one has been adopted, said HRIC’s executive director, Xiao Qiang, in an April 2 speech to the U.N. commission. “It is clear that the decision not to adopt a China resolution has not been based on the country’s human rights record,” he said. “Indeed, gross and systematic rights violations continue unabated in China, and impunity prevails.”

Xiao pointed to China’s crackdown on the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement as “a reminder that torture and repression are systemic problems in China.” An advocacy center for the Falun Gong in New York City, responding to China’s success at the Geneva meetings, said, “[Chinese leader] Jiang Zemin must not again take this vote as a license to kill.” The statement claimed that “after China’s escape from censure last year at the Commission, the crackdown on Falun Gong escalated drastically, with killings increasing from 11 to 193. During this year’s month-long Commission alone, at least 15 practitioners have been murdered while in custody.”

On April 21, hundreds of Falun Gong practitioners marched in New York City to demand that China stop persecuting followers of the movement. Falun Gong advocates claim more than 190 practitioners have died at the hands of authorities since July 1999, when the government banned the movement as an “evil cult.” Beijing claims the group is a threat to Chinese rule, though practitioners insist they have no political aims.
Used by permission of Newsroom-online.com.

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