Priest arrested in China over journalist link

Underground prelate maintains that matters of faith, not politics, were being discussed
Priest arrested in China over journalist link

A woman prays at Nidadang Catholic Church in southwest China's Yunnan province. A priest of Handan Diocese of Hebei province was detained for 20 days in a guesthouse for contacting a Japanese journalist in Hong Kong. (Photo by Greg Baker/AFP) reporters, Hong Kong
July 4, 2018
A priest of Handan Diocese in China's Hebei province was arrested in April ahead of a planned trip to Hong Kong where he was to meet a Japanese journalist, an online news outlet has revealed.

Underground priest Yan Lixin, 55, had been invited by the bishop of Hong Kong to discuss matters related to negotiations on a Sino-Vatican agreement aimed at improving decades of strained relations.

But before going to Hong Kong, the priest used his mobile phone to contact the Japanese journalist who was scheduled to interview him in Hong Kong.

A source, who asked to remain anonymous, said the journalist was under surveillance at the time.

News of the arrest of Father Yan was reported by the online magazine Bitter Winter, which runs stories about religious freedom and human rights in China.

On the evening of April 9, two days before he was due to leave for Hong Kong, police located Father Yan at a faithful's house where he was staying by tracking his phone using GPS satellite technology. He was then detained at a guesthouse until April 28. 

Dozens of National Security Brigade officers reportedly took part in the raid.

As well as asking about the Japanese journalist, guards tried to pressure Father Yan into joining the pro-government Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, but the priest refused.

Before releasing him, police retained Father Yan’s permit to travel to and from Hong Kong and forced him to guarantee not to try to renew contact with the Japanese journalist.

Father Yan told Bitter Winter he believed his detention was illegal as his communication with the journalist related to issues of faith and did not involve politics.

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