A Catholic bishop who already has spent 20 years in prison was arrested by Chinese authorities for the sixth time in the past 18 months.

Monsignor Julius Jia Zhiguo, 70, underground Bishop of Zhengding in northern China was arrested outside his home Monday, according to the U.S.-based Cardinal Kung Foundation, a monitor of of Catholics in the communist country.

Government officials had warned the bishop in advance of the arrest, ordering him to tell people he was being taken away for medical tests.

But the Kung Foundation said Jia is not ill or in need of any medical treatment.

Because China restricts Catholic Church activity to a state-controlled organization, the Catholic Patriotic Association, Jia’s ministry is illegal.

The repeated arrests and other forms of harassment are an attempt to convince him to join the the association, which does not recognize the Vatican.

Prior to important religious celebrations such as Christmas and Easter, Jia is taken into custody and forced to undergo indoctrination sessions, the Kung Foundation said.

At other times, such as during important party meetings or visits from foreign heads of state, he is taken to a secret location.

In 1999, to thwart his evangelization activities, police tried to close down an orphanage for abandoned and handicapped children. Authorities, however, had to backtrack on their intent, due to international pressure.

The bishop shares his home with about 100 disabled children he supports at his own expense.

The latest string of arrests began in January 2004. He was detained later that year, in April, when a government vehicle appeared outside his home and took him way without any explanation.

On that occasion, the Vatican protested, stating Jia’s arrest was “not admissible in a lawful state which claims to guarantee religious freedom and to respect and preserve human rights.”

The bishop was in custody from June 13 to 18 last year. He also was arrested in September and December last year and in January 2005, when he was locked up for three days in Shijiazhuang, Hebei province.

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