10/05/2019 China (International Christian Concern) – As anti-extradition law protests continue to escalate in Hong Kong, the Chinese government is targeting underground Catholics in China who refuse to join official churches and could potentially form alliance with Hong Kong Catholics.
Bitter Winter reports that some priests have been targeted for arrests, and closures of Catholic places of worship have become more frequent than ever.
According to a Catholic in the Diocese of Yujiang in the southeastern province of Jiangxi, a priest who refuses to join the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA) received news in early September that the government was planning to arrest him in order to “prevent the underground Catholic Church in mainland China from uniting with the Catholic Church in Hong Kong.”
The priest went into hiding and does not dare to use his cell phone or return to his home. Foreseeing the persecution, he once told his parishioners that “You must be prepared. If I’m placed under house arrest one day, you must persevere in your faith, recite the Rosary, and pray.”
To prevent any potential alliance-building, the Chinese regime is also prohibiting these “unruly” clergy from visiting Hong Kong.
A clergyman from the Diocese of Yujiang told Bitter Winter that he had been invited by Hong Kong Emeritus Cardinal Joseph Zen to visit Hong Kong in August to participate in church activities. Yet due to the ongoing protests and intensified control by the authorities, he was unable to go.
“Cardinal Zen is quite concerned about our underground churches in mainland China. Perhaps he has asked me over to learn about their plight, but the CCP won’t allow me to travel; there’s nothing I can do,” the clergyman said regretfully.
According to local parishioners, from July to August, at least five Catholic gathering places in the Diocese of Yujiang were forcibly shut down for refusing to join the CPCA. A local priest said that the reason the government is forcing Catholics to become part of the CPCA is to control them further and cut off all contact between them and the outside world.
A parishioner from Yujiang believes that Catholics must draw a line between themselves and the CPCA, and must be determined not to waver. “The CPCA is purely a political tool, not a religious organization, because it obeys the Communist Party’s management; they place the Party above all else,” he said. “Internationally, the CCP uses the existence of the Patriotic Church to deceive the world, to show that there is religious freedom in China.”