Authorities detained and continue to monitor a bishop who traveled abroad for religious purposes.
In 2012, Bishop Tong Changping traveled to the Vatican City in the hope of meeting the then Pope Benedict XVI. Bishop Tong left behind the cell phone given to him by CCP authorities and instead bought a new one that couldn’t be monitored. In his visa forms, he mentioned that he was going on a vacation.
When he returned from his trip and made his way to the Bishop Centre of his church, someone from Bureau of Religious Affairs reached out to him to make an appointment for a meeting. He agreed to it but then as soon as he left his workplace, he was kidnapped and taken to a secret location. His head was covered the entire time, but by Bishop’s Tong estimation, the place was near an airport in the western suburbs of Shaanxi’s capital city, Xi’an.
Bishop Tong belongs to the Shaanxi Province Catholic Bishop Center. It is located in Weinan City’s Liangtian Jiedao area. It is quite an old establishment with almost 100 years of history behind it. The cathedral behind this center can host over 200 believers and is a popular place to congregate during religious holidays.
The authorities suspected he had traveled for his consecration and so, in a series of interrogations, he was repeatedly asked about it. The officials formed two teams and posed variously as public security officials or hired personnel from crime syndicates. He was asked about why he was consecrated in Rome instead of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association or if he had received any financial aid. Interrogators threatened to kill him as well.
The Bureau of Religious Affairs officials held him in secret for five days. When Bishop Tong’s colleagues called on his phone, the authorities wouldn’t let him take the calls. On the third day, he was allowed to answer but could only say that he was safe and sound. Two days later, authorities decided they weren’t going to get any useful information from him and let him go. Except, even then, his head was fully covered, and he was pushed out of the car on the western highway intersection in Weinan City. He was told to walk back to his home.
After this experience, Bishop Tong was left traumatized. One day, the Bishop Center had a worker from a telecom company come in to fix the poor Internet signals at their place. However, the worker discovered a palm-sized surveillance camera while doing his work. Bishop Tong suddenly realized that this is how the CCP authorities knew about everything he was up to and asked the worker to remove the camera. Within minutes, a phone call from the Bureau of Religious Affairs was received, and the camera was ordered to be re-installed.
While those at the center protested against this kind of 24×7 surveillance, they were told to keep their mouths shut and keep their resentment to themselves.
In fact, the CCP authorities have further increased their surveillance of the center. The clergies are not allowed to communicate with foreign entities, and religious activities are restricted at the center. One is not allowed to burst crackers during festivals or broadcast sermons, for example.
Bishop Tong, on the other hand, continues to be called in for questioning by Weinan Bureau of Religious Affairs and National Security Bureau every once in a while.
Reported by Yao Zhangjin