Chinese police have arrested 24 Catholics, including a priest who was severely beaten, in a government campaign to force believers to leave the church, a lobbying group has reported.
    Fr Liu Shaozhang, 20 nuns, two laymen and a seminarian were arrested in southeastern Fujian province, the US-based Cardinal Kung Foundation said.
    Police beat Liu after taking him into custody, leaving the 38-year-old priest bleeding and spitting blood, the group says.
    The report says a group of parishioners bought the release of two of the nuns, but the priest and 21 others were still in detention.
    It has provided no details on the circumstances of the group's arrest, but says the government has been engaged in a campaign to force Catholics out of the underground church and into the state-approved Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.
    Fujian province has an active and growing Catholic community and has come under renewed government pressure. Another priest was arrested this month for celebrating Mass in a private home and held him for 11 days.
5 Sep 00

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