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China authorities in Harbin detain two 'underground' priests

The clerics were seized during religious rites at a prayer house on Sunday

ucanews.com reporter, Hong Kong

ucanews.com reporter, Hong Kong

Published: March 22, 2015 05:00 PM GMT

Updated: March 22, 2015 11:30 PM GMT

China authorities in Harbin detain two 'underground' priests

Father Cao Jianyou of Harbin, one of two priests in Harbin detained by authorities on Sunday. (File photo/ucanews.com )

Two unregistered Chinese priests were forcibly removed by government officials and police while giving a blessing during Sunday mass yesterday at a prayer house in the northeastern city of Harbin.

Fathers Quan Xiaoyun and Cao Jianyou of Mudanjiang parish, who are both not recognized by the government, were charged with “holding illegal religious activities at an unregistered worshipping venue”, said a Church source who declined to be named for security reasons.

“Catholics were pained and angry that the priests were taken away forcefully during a religious rite,” the source told ucanews.com. “Father Cao did not even have time to put on his coat.”

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The two priests were taken to a police station in Aimin district, Mudanjiang, where they faced eight hours of interrogation before police took them to an undisclosed location.

“I cannot confirm the whereabouts of the priests now,” said Father Zhao Hongchun, apostolic administrator of Harbin.

The prayer house in Mudanjiang, about 300 kilometers southeast of Harbin, has recently been harassed on other occasions by the religious affairs office. The section head was identified using only his family name, Ni.

“Just before the Chinese New Year last month, Ni also banned Father Chen Qi – another priest of the same parish – from working in Mudanjiang,” said Father Zhao.

The timing of the raids was especially inconvenient as priests face extra work during the Lenten season, and because the Vatican and China were supposed to be trying to build confidence amid ongoing talks aimed at finally sealing diplomatic ties, he added.

“We did not anticipate such things happening at this time when the media is hot on China-Vatican relations ... we are praying for China and the Vatican to be able to reach wonderful and healthy diplomatic relations,” said Father Zhao. “I don’t understand the intentions of the government.”

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