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China arrests five "underground" priests

Five "underground" priests on their way to visit a fellow priest have been arrested in north-east China, while another priest was arrested in eastern China, according to the Cardinal King Foundation religious rights group in the US.

The five priests were arrested on Tuesday at Siliying village in Hebei province's Boading city, about 113km from Beijing, the Connecticut-based Cardinal Kung Foundation said in a statement.

Fs Kang Fuliang, Chen Guozhen, Pang Guangzhao, Joseph Yin and deacon Wang Lijun, all between the ages of 25 and 32, were arrested by Chinese authorities as they were on their way to visit Fr Lu Genjun, who was just released from a labour camp after serving three years, the foundation said.

"At this moment, we have no other details," said Joseph Kung, president of the foundation.

He said he learned of the arrests through several sources.

The foundation also said that two weeks ago, Fr Lu Xiaozhou, a priest in Wenzhou city in east China's Zhejiang province, was arrested by Chinese authorities there.

Lu was arrested on 16 June as he was preparing to administer the sacrament of anointing of the sick to a dying Catholic, the foundation said.

The report could not be immediately confirmed. Local police officials said they were not aware of the alleged incident.

An official at the Siliying village communist party committee said he did not know of the arrests.

Kung urged foreign governments to ask Beijing to stop the "persecution" of its citizens.

"The Beijing government continues to declare that its constitution guarantees human rights and religious freedom," Kung said in a statement.

The Mercury

Cardinal Kung Foundation

7 Jul 2003