China arrests priests, demolishes church
Police in north-east China are reported to have raided a religious retreat and arrested about a dozen Catholic priests, while a church in the vicinity was demolished.
The claims come from the Cardinal Kung Foundation, a US-based religious rights group.
The 12 priests and seminarians were attending a retreat at the beginning of last week in Gaocheng county, in Hebei province's Shijiazhuang city. Police swooped and took everyone into custody, the Foundation said in a statement.
The gathering was sponsored by the underground Catholic Church loyal to the Vatican.
Seven of the priests are being held in a detention house in Gaocheng county. The fate of the remaining five is uncertain.
"They are charged with illegal assembly. I don't know if they will be released soon," said a staff member at the dention centre.
Prior to the arrests, a Catholic church in Liugou village, also in Hebei province, was torn down, the foundation said.
An official from the Shahe city religious affairs office said the church was razed in June two weeks after being built because it did not have proper building licenses.
"We've demolished it. It didn't have a license to conduct religious activities, nor construction and land use licenses," the official said.
Some 150 parishioners belonged to the new church, the foundation said, most of them new converts to Catholicism.
The religious affairs official, however, said only 20 to 30 people frequented the church.
China arrests a dozen Roman Catholic priests, seminarians; demolishes church (AFP/Yahoo)
China demolishes church (AFP/Herald-Sun)
Cardinal Kung Foundation | Approximately A Dozen Underground Roman Catholic Priests and Seminarians Were Arrested and Another Church Was Demolished in China
China arrests five "underground" priests (7/7/03)
China tightening its grip on Catholics (3/6/03)
28 Oct 2003