A Catholic bishop who refused the Chinese communist government’s demand that he join the state-controlled church has been seized by authorities.
The government’s move comes amid charges by supporters of the underground church that the Vatican is caving to Beijing.
Bishop Peter Shao Zhumin was arrested the morning of Nov. 9 by police who are keeping him for what authorities call a “vacation period,” reports the Daily Caller, citing the Catholic News Service.
Although Zhumin was appointed by the Vatican, the Chinese government does not recognize him because he refused to join the state church under the control of the Chinese Communist Party, the Patriotic Association.
His “vacation” will consist of “10 or 15 day” of interrogation and indoctrination in which authorities will try to force him to become independent of Rome.
AsiaNews said authorities have attempted to indoctrinate him at least five times in the past two years.
He last was seized in May 2017 and released after seven months.
The Daily Caller noted the Vatican gave in to China’s demand to recognize eight excommunicated bishops who were appointed by the communist government.
Under the agreement, the Vatican will be allowed to put forward bishop candidates, but Beijing will have the power to reject and of them.
Catholic leaders such as Cardinal Jospeh Zen, the former bishop of Hong Kong, have expressed anger that Beijing has not made any concessions.
“The deal is a major step toward the annihilation of the real church in China,” Zen said.
Systematic crackdown under Xi
As WND reported in August, President Xi Jinping, regarded as China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, is engaged in the most severe systematic crackdown on Christianity in China, both Catholic and Protestant, since religious freedom was written into the Constitution in 1982.
Hundreds of private Christian house churches have been shut down, and 47 churches in Beijing issued a statement in July saying they had faced “unprecedented” harassment since February.
China, according to some estimates, has more than 100,000 Christians among its 1.3 billion people. Some two-thirds of Chinese Christians attend an illegal or “unregistered” house church.
The communist government in recent years has allowed many unregistered Protestant house churches to grow, particularly smaller gatherings, while cracking down on others. But this year the persecution has intensified amid a “thought reform,” or political indoctrination, campaign, the Associated Press said in August.
The South China Morning Post reported in November 2017 that communist officials visited Christians’ homes in Yugan county of Jiangxi province, urging them to replace personal religious displays with posters of President Xi. More than 600 complied, the Hong Kong paper said.
“Through our thought reform, they’ve voluntarily done it,” claimed a Yugan official, Qi Yan, in an interview with AP. “The move is aimed at Christian families in poverty, and we educated them to believe in science and not in superstition, making them believe in the party.”
Willy Lam, a Chinese politics expert at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told AP he believes Xi is a “closet Maoist,” who is “very anxious about thought control.”
“He definitely does not want people to be faithful members of the church, because then people would profess their allegiance to the church rather than to the party, or more exactly, to Xi himself,” Lam said.
Xi warned in 2016 at a religion conference that China “must resolutely guard against overseas infiltrations via religious means.”
In February, Christianity Today reported, the government enacted new regulations requiring religious groups to obtain government approval for any religious activity, including using one’s personal home for meetings, publishing religious materials, calling oneself a pastor and studying theology.
Last August, in a New York Times op-ed, Chinese student Derek Lam wrote that the Communist Party “is very close to completing its mission of bringing Christianity under its thumb.”
“Although there is nothing I would love more than to become a pastor and preach the gospel in Hong Kong, I will never do so if it means making Jesus subservient to Xi Jinping,” he wrote.
In its most recent survey of the persecution of Christians worldwide, Open Doors observed that in China “the distinction between government-registered and unregistered churches used to be a major factor in whether or not they were persecuted” but “this is no longer the case.”
“All Christians are slandered, which seems to support the widely held belief that the Communist Party is banking on a unified Chinese cultural identity to maintain its power.”
During the Cultural Revolution, from 1966 to 1976, the government completely banned religious life. In 1979, amid the economic reforms, the government-controlled Protestant Three-Self Movement was restored. In 1980, the China Christian Council was established as an umbrella organization for all Protestant churches. For Catholics, the state-controlled Chinese Patriotic Catholic Church operates with no ties to the Vatican, and Catholics who acknowledge the authority of the pope have been subject to persecution.