The Catholic prelate of Xinxiang in China, Bishop Zhang Weizhu, remains in prison nine months after he was arrested, said a report on an Italian Catholic news site.
“He is being detained in an unknown place, illegally,” AsiaNews quoted sources inside China.
The prelate was arrested on May 21, 2021, a day after seven priests and ten seminarians were also taken by the police.
The bishop had just had a medical procedure during the time of his arrest.
The seminarians were able to return to their homes after a few days, although prohibited from continuing their theology studies.
The priests, meanwhile, underwent “political sessions” and were later released.
The bishop, however, remains in custody.
“Today, 21 February, our bishop has been illegally detained in an unknown place for nine months,” the AsiaNews report quoted a faithful in Henan province.
Chinese law prohibits the isolation and imprisonment of a person for more than three months without charges being filed.
The report said that to this day, only two people were able to visit Bishop Zhang, 63, who has been bishop of Xinxiang since 1991.
His appointment as bishop was not recognized by the Chinese government.
China’s regulations on religious activities only allow personnel who are recognized by the state to perform religions functions and activities.
The AsiaNews report said the detention of Bishop Zhang “casts a shadow on the emphasis on friendship proclaimed during the Beijing Winter Olympics.”
Bishop Zhang was born in 1956 and was clandestinely consecrated as bishop in Xianxiang in 1990 by Bishop Casmir Wang Milu of Tianshui.
The Holy See appointed him as the prelate of Xinxiang in 1998 but the government forbade him to work there.
The Apostolic Prefecture of Xianxiang, which has an estimated 100,000 Catholic faithful, is not recognized by the Chinese government and all the activities of priests, seminarians, and the faithful there are considered “illegal” and “criminal.”
The 2020 China-Vatican agreement on the appointment of bishops has not stopped the persecution of Chinese Catholics, especially the “unofficial” ones, said media reports.