Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, emeritus bishop of Hong Kong, holds a poster featuring a photograph of missing Bishop Cui Tai on May 29. (Photo from Cardinal Zen's Facebook)
An underground Chinese bishop has been taken away by authorities as Beijing's clampdown on religion claims more victims.
Coadjutor Bishop Cui Tai of Xuanhua in Hebei province has not been seen since mid-April and his whereabouts are unknown.
The Justice and Peace Commission (JPC) of Hong Kong issued a statement on May 29 calling on the Chinese government to grant Bishop Cui freedom, allow him to receive medical care and to release other clergy in Hebei province.
Hebei has recently reported increased suppression of religion. Hejian city authorities demanded all students attend classes on Mother's Day to prevent them from participating in the annual Ludezhuang pilgrimage; Faith Weekly based in Hebei was ordered not to report any news about Month of Mary pilgrimages across the country; and a statue of a martyr saint was removed from a Catholic church on May 8.
The JPC statement said that Bishop Cui had been in poor health in recent years, suffering from severe gastritis, neurasthenia and dizziness.
The commission was very worried about his situation and strongly condemned the Chinese government for serious violations of the constitution and international human rights conventions to protect citizens' basic rights and religious freedom.
The statement said Bishop Cui upholds the freedom of belief and conscience, rejects the government's religious policy that violates the principle of faith, and refuses to accept the leadership of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.
Since 1993, the bishop has been repeatedly subject to detention and house arrest or sent to labor camps by authorities for illegally preaching or holding illegal religious assemblies.
An anonymous Catholic source told ucanews.com that since 2007 Bishop Cui had only been allowed to go home for a few days to visit his elderly sister for festivals such as the Lunar New Year and the Mid-Autumn Festival.
The source, from the parish served by Bishop Cui, said underground Bishop James Su Zhimin of Baoding in Hebei was also still missing.
"But the key point is that Bishop Cui is not a leader of the mainland church. He is only a pastor who lives a simple and strict life full of virtue. He has done nothing illegal. I do not understand why the government has illegally detained him for more than a decade. That is going too far," the source said.
The JPC called on the government to unconditionally release Bishop Cui and other clergy including Bishop Su and Father Liu Honggeng of Baoding.
Bishop Cui was born in Zhangjiakou in Hebei in 1950 and studied at Baoding seminary. He was ordained and consecrated by Bishop Shi Enxiang of Yixian in 1990. In 2013, he was appointed as a coadjutor bishop of Xuanhua by the Holy See, but the mainland government has not recognized its episcopacy.