Chinese bishop reappears 18 months after abduction
Vatican sources have revealed that Bishop Joseph Zhang Weizhu was released last month, a year and a half after his disappearance following an altercation with police.
Bishop Zhang, aged 45, from Xianxian (Hebei, northern China), is the "unofficial" Bishop of Xinxiang (Henan, central China). As a member of the so-called "unofficial" Catholic Church, Bishop Zhang has been abducted and made to disappear repeatedly. The previous occasion was in May 1998.
Bishops, priests and lay members of the unofficial Church (not recognised by the government) are arrested and put in isolation where they undergo ideological brainwashing to convince them to change to the "official" Church controlled by the Patriotic Association.
Since 1995 in various provinces of China the government has led a campaign to eliminate the "unofficial" Church. Local Catholics say Bishop Zhang was released because of serious health conditions. Xinxiang diocese, in Henan almost 600 km south of Beijing, has about 8000 Catholics, unofficial and official.
A Tale of China's Two Churches (Christianity Today)
Holy Spirit Study Centre (Hong Kong)