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Chinese bishop freed from detention after foreign visitors depart

An 'underground' bishop in north-eastern China whose detention prompted the Vatican to demand an explanation was reportedly released on Sunday afternon after ten days in captivity.

UCA News sources said 45 year old Bishop Wei Jingyi of Qiqihar had his mobile phone SIM card confiscated by security officials.

Bishop Wei was taken into custody with his driver and two French Church visitors at a highway toll booth on their return from Harbin airport. All except the bishop were released the next day.

In a rare move, the Holy See issued a statement on 10 March seeking a public explanation from the Chinese Government. The following day, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told the press that "public security officials have not taken any restrictive measures" against Bishop Wei and that "the rumours do not correspond to the facts".

A Church source said, "One of the reasons for Bishop Wei being released within a short time is because the two Church visitors left the country soon after the bishop's detention." The source added that "officials were not pleased with the bishop's meeting with the foreigners."

Other Church sources reported that the car in which the bishop and the two foreign visitors traveled "was followed from the airport." They said that when the car was stopped at a tollbooth, "the attitude of the Religious Affairs Bureau and Public Security officials toward the bishop was rough until they saw two foreigners inside the vehicle."

The 10 March statement of Holy See Press Office Director Joaquin Navarro Valls expressed "concern and sadness" over the detention and demanded that "whatever accusations there might be against the arrested bishop, they should be made public."

'Underground' Bishop Reportedly Released After Foreign Church Visitors Leave China (UCA News 16/3/04)

Chinese "underground" bishop released (Catholic World News 16/3/04)
Bishop Wei Jingyi released last March 14 ( 16/3/04)
Vatican please explain to China on bishop's arrest (CathNews 12/3/04)
Holy See statement on bishop arrested in China (Independent Catholic News/Vatican Information Service 11/3/04)
Chinese diocese fearful after bishop's arrest (Catholic World News 11/3/04)
Holy see statement on bishop arrested in China (Vatican Information Service 10/3/04)
Vatican official says West needs cultural, religious ties to China (Catholic News Service 9/3/04)
The Holy See asks China to clarify charges against mons. Wei Jingyi ( 10/3/04)

17 Mar 2004