Believers attend a service at the unofficial catholic church in Majhuang village, Hebei Province in China, Dec. 11, 2016. China’s Ruling Communist Party officials and Pope Francis have tried to improve Catholic-related religious relations this month, however the two groups disagree about which authority should be appointing bishops. Thomas Peter / Reuters
In a shocking violation of religious freedom, two underground Catholic priests were recently detained in Hebei Province, China, and forced to study the Communist government’s orders on how Christianity is to be practiced.
UCA News.com reported that the priests in question were identified as Father Su Guipeng and Father Zhao He from the Xuanhua Diocese.
Zhao was reportedly taken away by United Front Work Department of Yangyuan County personnel last week, who took his phone and placed him in detention at a hotel, putting him under constant surveillance by guards.
While in detention the priest was forced to recognize the state-controlled Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and to study the country’s revised regulations on religious practice.
In turn, Su, who was detained earlier in October, was also reportedly indoctrinated on government policies while in house arrest.
A source told the news agency that families in the village of Xuanhua have been warned that they will be fined and detained if they are found to be helping the priests.
Under the country’s Regulations for Religious Affairs that came into force in February, religious organizations must register with one of five state-sanctioned patriotic religious associations, which are supervised by the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA). The rules also include restrictions on religious schooling and the times and locations of religious celebrations, as well as monitoring of online religious activity.
Earlier this month, Pastor Huang Xiaoning from Guangzhou Bible Reformed Church (GBRC) was arrested for “disobedience” to the regulations.
The church has been targeted for months, with authorities shutting down services and harassing believers.
In August, police broke into the church service and demanded Pastor Huang stop preaching. In reply, Huang asked that they show respect rather than cut off his preaching.
“You don’t know the severe transgression you have committed by interrupting the sacred worship,” he said. “I will cooperate with you after my sermon.”
China Aid notes that in total, the authorities listened to the sermon for 30 minutes. After they left, the service continued, and Huang said to the congregation, “Thank the Lord that our service could be held. Brothers and sisters [in Christ] who are in the congregation, we should all the more treasure every Sunday gathering. I also thank the Lord for leading those law enforcement officers to our church and giving them half an hour to listen to the sermon. May the Lord have mercy on them and open their hearts. May the Lord grant us courage so that we can courageously witness to them about the Lord.”