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China sentences three priests to labour camp

China has sentenced three priests to three years in a labour camp for "cult" activities it says threaten social stability, according to the US-based Cardinal Kung Foundation.

Fathers Pang Yongxing, 30, Ma Shunbao, 50, and Wang Limao, 32, all underground Roman Catholic priests in Baoding city in the northern province of Hebei, were sentenced on 7 July for "disturbing the peace of society", the Kung Foundation said.

Police arrested Wang as he delivered mass on Palm Sunday in March, Ma while offering Easter Sunday mass a week later, and Pang in his home on December, 2001, it said in a faxed statement received on Saturday.

It said the three were being held at the Balizhuang labour camp in Baoding, around 150 km south of Beijing.

Phone calls to the camp were not answered.

"To sentence these Roman Catholics under the 'cult' law and to punish them for this in labour camps is a transparent example that there is no religious freedom in China," said the foundation's president Joseph Kung. "It makes a mockery of the 'religious freedom' clause in the Chinese constitution."

Rights groups say China has used cult laws, enshrined as part the government's fight against banned spiritual movement Falun Gong, to expedite its crackdown on Christians and Muslims outside the state-approved religious bureaucracy.

Cardinal Kung Foundation


30 Jul 2002