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China arrests 16 underground priests

Police in the region of Jiangxi in southeast China have arrested 16 priests of the underground Catholic Church loyal to the Pope.

In the middle of the night of 10 July, the police took Fr Liao Haiqing of Yujiang Diocese from his home and then interrupted a study-meeting of 15 other priests of the same district, arresting those present, the Fides news agency reported.

The Italian news agency ANSA says tension in the area is high. There is increased government pressure on members of the underground Church to join the government-controlled Catholic "patriotic" church.

Fr Liao Haiqing, 71, has already spent 17 years in prison in the 1950s and between 1980 and 1990. The outlawed Yujiang Diocese has about 50,000 Catholics, led by Bishop Thomas Zeng Jingmu, who has spent more than 30 years in prison.