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Activists urge release of clergy, lawyer

Appeal to Beijing to free activists during the holidays

Bishop Cosmas Shi Enxshiang, 90, of Yixian has been detained since 2001 Bishop Cosmas Shi Enxshiang, 90, of Yixian has been detained since 2001
  • ucanews.com reporter, Hong Kong
  • China
  • December 19, 2011
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Hong Kong-based rights groups have repeated their call for the release of human rights activists and detained Catholic clergy.

The China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group and other social activists staged a protest outside the Central Government Liaison Office yesterday, demanding the immediate release of human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng.

Gao, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, was sentenced to three year’s imprisonment as the Beijing Municipal No 1 Intermediate Court cancelled his probation last week, claiming that he had violated probation rules.

In a closed trial in 2006, the Chinese dissident was charged with subversion and given a three-year suspended prison sentence and five years’ probation. He was forcibly disappeared in early 2009 and only reappeared briefly for two weeks last year.

While the news of Gao has drawn criticism from the international community, Chinese Catholics have also raised concerns over detained mainland clergy.

Lina Chan Li-na, executive secretary of the diocese’s Justice and Peace Commission, appealed to Beijing that “Christmas is a season of hope. If Gao can be released, it will give hope to his family.”

“Beijing always says that China has religious freedom and pays respect to religion. Then it should also release our detained clergy so that they can return to celebrate Christmas with their flocks,” she said.

They included Bishops James Su Zhimin of Baoding, 79, and Cosmas Shi Enxiang of Yixian, 90, from Hebei province, who have been held in custody without formal arrest or open trial since 1997 and 2001, respectively.

About 30 other priests have also been jailed without charge or trial.

“Until now, there is no news about them. We know that the government changed their names to make it hard to trace their whereabouts,” said a Church observer who requested anonymity.

The observer added that other bishops and priests have also been prevented from exercising their religious duties or sent for re-education.

Some are very old and don’t receive even basic medical treatment from the government. Their human rights are seriously violated, he said.

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