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Monday, 18 September, 2000, 14:15 GMT 15:15 UK
Bishop arrested in China
Chinese catholics
The official church does not recognise Papal authority
Chinese police have arrested an 81-year-old bishop in a clampdown on the country's underground Roman Catholic church, according to an advocacy group.

They have also beaten and detained other priests, nuns and worshippers, the Cardinal Kung Foundation said.

Bishop Zeng Jingmu, who has already spent 30 years in jail, was taken from his home in eastern China's Jiangxi province on 14 September, according to the United States-based group.

His detention came a week after the Vatican reported the arrest of another underground bishop, Jiang Ming Yuan.

It also coincided with last week's visit to Beijing by Vatican cardinal Roger Etchegaray.

The foundation said two other priests, Liao Haiqing and another known by his surname, Deng, were arrested with Mr Zeng, who has been under house arrest since his release from prison in 1998.

Arrests

Activists also reported that police in Fujian province had tortured an 82-year-old priest, Ye Gongfeng, until he fainted, had destroyed a church altar and beaten worshippers.

During August at least five priests and five nuns were arrested in the eastern province but subsequently released, the foundation said.

China prohibits people from practising religious beliefs outside state-sanctioned churches, temples and mosques.

The official Catholic church, which has around four million faithful, does not recognise the authority of the Pope.

The Vatican says eight million Chinese are loyal to the Pope and worship in secret.

Protest

The United States State Department recently released a damning report on religious freedom in China.

It criticised the authorities for clamping down on unofficial houses of worship and persecuting members of unregistered groups.

Joseph Kung, president of the Cardinal Kung Foundation, urged Mr Etchegaray to protest against the latest arrests to Chinese officials.

Mr Etchegaray visited China last week, opening a rare opportunity for direct contact with the authorities.

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See also:

05 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
Bishop arrested in China
05 Sep 00 | Americas
US condemns religious intolerance
24 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
China arrests followers of banned church
20 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
China sets conditions for papal visit
19 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
China targets religious group
06 Jan 00 | Asia-Pacific
China defies Pope
06 Nov 99 | South Asia
Pope urges spread of Catholicism
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