Chinese authorities have reportedly abducted a Catholic priest in the Diocese of Mindong in Fujian on the south-east coast of China and has since been detained in an unknown location.
A report from the Italian news site AsiaNews said that on Sept.1, members of China’s Religious Affairs Bureau arrested Father Liu Maochun, a 46-year-old underground priest.
The priest, who was reportedly forced to join the state-recognized Church in China, was taken after visiting the sick in a hospital.
The Religious Affairs Bureau confirmed that Father Li, who has been imprisoned several times in the past decade, was under its custody.
Sources said that at least 20 priests in the Diocese of Mindong who refused to join the state-sanctioned Church are under constant pressure from the local government.
These members of the clergy were reportedly deprived of their freedom to administer priestly duties.
Sources claimed that pressures against underground priests have grown stronger as the renewal of an agreement between China and the Vatican nears.
Among those targeted for “coercion” is Monsignor Vincenzo Guo Xijin, considered one of the “victims” of an agreement between the Vatican and China that was signed two years ago.
Chinese authorities tried to expel the prelate from the bishopric but was only prevented by the possible negative publicity and reaction from the international community.
The Diocese of Mindong has been considered a “pilot project” for the implementation of the Sino-Vatican deal.
As part of the deal, Pope Francis officially recognized eight bishops (one of whom died earlier in 2017) named by the Chinese state that did not have papal approval.