ucanews.com reporter, Hong Kong
Updated: December 23, 2016 03:19 AM GMT
A self-styled "bishop" from an underground community in China's northern Hebei province was released on Dec. 14 after the authorities took him on a six-day "sightseeing" trip.
Father Paul Dong Guanhwa, 58, told ucanews.com that he was taken by the police to Zhengzhou and Kaifeng of central Henan province and Hangzhou of eastern Zhejiang province.
The arresting group of officials was made up of six men, Father Dong said, including one from the Religious Affairs Bureau and another from the Party's United Front Work Department. He said the others were security officers.
"I told them to detain me properly if you want and don't say that it is sightseeing. However, they argued that they just wanted to take me to travel and they did not use handcuffs on me," he said.
"They kept me in hostels but allowed me to take walks outside if I wanted. But they tracked me everywhere I went, even when I went to the washroom. Two men slept next to me," Father Dong said.
The self-styled "bishop" said that the police told him that he had been detained because he spoke to foreign journalists.
His arrest occurred several weeks after he gave an interviews to BBC and CNN where he said he didn't support negotiations between the Vatican and Beijing, which seeks to resolve the issue of bishop appointments.
See Father Dong featured in this Nov. 30 news report by CNN above.
Father Dong said he also believed he was detained for refusing to join the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, which is accused of controlling the church for the government and is deemed incompatible with church doctrine.
A Catholic source in Zhengding Diocese told ucanews.com that the authorities use such tactics when they are trying to persuade a target to accept government management. "If the person didn't accept, the government would detain them in a secret place," the source said.
The source cited an example of another priest who was taken in a similar manner a decade ago. "Soon after he returned home, he joined the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association," the source said.
During his "sight-seeing trip," the officials also warned Father Dong not to ordain any more new bishops without any approval from the government.
The authorities learnt through monitoring his mobile phone that he secretly ordained Father Zhang Guoqing, an underground priest in northeastern Hellongjiang province, as bishop in September, Father Dong said.
When asked if any other priests have recently approached him for episcopal ordination, he said that given the surveillance, "who dares to approach me now?"
Father Dong announced on May 22 that he was secretly ordained a bishop 11 years ago. He made public his "episcopal" status by wearing his mitre and holding his staff on Sept. 11, according to a source in Zhengding, an underground community stronghold and a province that has about 1 million Catholics.
The underground community of Zhengding Diocese is led by Vatican-approved Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo who issued a statement on Sept. 13 stating that Father Dong has incurred automatic excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See according to Canon Law Article 1382 for accepting episcopal consecration without papal approval.