The coronavirus pandemic doesn’t prevent the Chinese government from persecuting Catholic conscientious objectors in the Diocese of Mindong.
by An Xin
Catholic conscientious objectors from the Mindong Diocese in the southeastern province of Fujian are calling for urgent help, as the Chinese government started resorting to torture while pressuring them to join the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA). As foreseen in the Vatican Guidelines of 2019, priests and bishops may remain outside the CPCA for reasons of conscience, but the regime uses any means possible to completely transform what used to be known as the Underground Catholic Church before June.
A priest deprived of sleep for four days.
A Catholic from the diocese reported that government officials took away Father Huang, a priest from the parish in Saiqi town, administered by Fujian’s Fuan city, on April 2. For four days, the priest was subjected to a torture method called “exhausting an eagle,” when people are deprived of sleep for extended periods.
“Fr. Huang’s residence was under surveillance, and that day, at about 4 p.m., the police pried open the door and forcibly carried him away,” the churchgoer said. “More than a dozen personnel took part in the operation.”
That evening, national security officers escorted Fr. Huang to a remote secret interrogation facility and confined him to a small room equipped with a surveillance camera. The priest had strong lights shown in his eyes 24 hours a day, as officers took turns watching him, threatening to keep him in detention for as long as he refused to join the CPCA.
Before signing, Fr. Huang asked to add to the CPCA application a statement that “he will remain faithful to the Catholics doctrine”—as is foreseen in the Vatican guidelines. He also wanted to add that he is joining “on the precondition of maintaining our pure belief and guaranteeing our communion with the Pope.” But government officials refused, claiming that he was not allowed to add any preconditions as per “national laws and regulations and the leadership of the CPCA.”
After four days, Fr. Huang, exhausted from the torture to the point of a mental breakdown, signed the application. National security officers pressured him to persuade other priests to do the same, promising to give him 50,000 RMB (about $ 7,000) for each successful case, but Fr. Huang refused.
“Fr. Huang felt regret after signing, thinking that he had let his congregation down,” the churchgoer expounded. “He said that he would not ‘wallow in the CPCA’s swamp,’ regardless if he had joined it.”
A local government insider explained that because the closures of unregistered Catholic churches in the diocese had been reported in media outlets abroad (including Bitter Winter), the authorities chose Fr. Huang as a target to make him join the CPCA, demonstrating that they are on course in implementing the political task of eliminating unregistered churches.
“My superiors said that any means should be used to make him sign; if necessary, he could be disappeared,” the insider said.
Guilt by association—another CCP’s tool to pressure priests.
A clergy member from the diocese told Bitter Winter that because the government only has a month left until the deadline it had set for “transforming” the unregistered Catholic Church, it will probably step up efforts to pressure other priests to join the CPCA, as they did with Fr. Huang.
In early April, Msgr. Guo Xijin, the diocese’s auxiliary bishop, and Father Liu, a highly respected local priest, were both threatened by the police, forcing them to join the CPCA. In other cases, the government resorted to “guilt by association”—an intimidation method the CCP often uses to suppress dissident Catholics and other believers.
Father Feng from Xiyin village in Fuan’s Xitan town was forced to sign the application after the government threatened to dismiss his younger brother and sister-in-law from public employment. When another priest refused to sign, the authorities confiscated his brother’s motor tricycle, which he used for business, and shut down his nephew’s travel agency.
“The government is so aggressive; it makes young priests feel frightened,” the clergy member said worriedly. “The government will soon start targeting nuns, as they want to put all unregistered Catholics under its control.” He added that the police and government personnel monitor all priests who refuse to join the CPCA, on top of omnipresent cameras on the streets that are used to surveil them.
Priests call for help.
“In the Vatican Guidelines of 2019, the Holy See asks the CCP government not to attack or threaten Catholic conscientious objectors, but the government turns a blind eye on this, persecuting priests without scruples and clamoring with the Vatican in public,” a priest in the diocese told Bitter Winter. “The CCP is atheist, so it will continue persecuting Catholics and make all people of faith believe in communism in the end. The Pope does not see its essence clearly, still has illusions about it, and the unregistered Catholics are facing a calamity.”
The priest hopes that the international community will see how the CCP government persecutes the Catholic Church and that the Pope will realize that it was a mistake to negotiate with the communist regime. “We can’t just sing praises to the Pope, we also have to convey true and objective information on the persecution of the Church, hoping that he will listen to our voice of criticism to self-reflect and do something to help us.”