ucanews.com reporter, Hong KongUpdated: September 22, 2015 03:08 PM GMT
Chinese President Xi Jinping is pictured before a meeting with U.S. officials in Beijing in August. Chinese Catholics plan to protest Xi's visit to the United States, which begins Sept. 22. (Photo by Fred Dufour/AFP)
Chinese Catholics in the United States are planning to protest outside the Chinese consulate in New York on Sept. 22, the first day of Chinese President Xi Jinping's U.S. visit.
These immigrants — who live in New York — said they are discontent with the deteriorating religious situation in China.
"Our action is to show our solidarity to the Christian brothers and sisters in China," Xu Kewang, one of the Chinese Catholics, told ucanews.com.
More than 1,200 church crosses had been removed in Zhejiang since late 2013. Though the cross-removal campaign shows signs of easing, provincial authorities have begun a crackdown on lawyers and church leaders seeking to put a stop to the campaign through legal means.
At the same time, authorities want to introduce administrative punishments for so-called offenses carried out by Christians in Zhejiang, where there are an estimated 2 million Christians.
The Chinese immigrants have prepared placards demanding the "release of detained clergy," and an end to religious persecution.
"Our protesting group is just a small one because some Chinese parishioners are timid. They fear retaliation when they return to China," Xu said.
Besides Xu and his fellow parishioners, other concerned groups are also pressuring the Obama administration to address China's crackdown on human rights activists and lawyers and political prisoners, including Bishop James Su Zhimin of Baoding.
The Catholic bishop, who has been missing since 1997, is one of the 20 dissidents and religious figures featured in the "Free China's Heroes" campaign spearheaded by Sen. Marco Rubio, head of the U.S. congressional commission on China.
At least 1,300 political and religious prisoners are believed to be detained in China, according to a database compiled by the commission.
In stark contrast from Xi's Sept. 22-28 visit, Xu said he and the other Chinese Catholics will greet Pope Francis during the pontiff's Sept. 24 visit to New York.
"We are happy to have the chance to see the pope. But we will not make an appeal to him. It is not necessary. We know he is concerned about China," Xu said.
Pope Francis arrived in Washington D.C. Sept. 22 after his four-day trip to Cuba. He will arrive in New York Sept. 24 just as Xi arrives in Washington from Seattle. Both men are expected to address the United Nations' 70th General Assembly in New York but on different days.