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China denies detention of Bishops

China is denying the allegations of the Vatican that it arrested three bishops.

China's Religious and Ethical Affairs Bureau says that Bishop Zhao Zhendong was willingly attending the classes about the country's official religion policies. A bureau official says he's now back at work at his church in Hebei province.

Voice of America carries a report that a Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman, Zhang Qiyue, countered that the Vatican's accusations were groundless, and China would not punish people for believing in religion. Ms. Zhang added that everyone must abide by the law, and those who do not will be punished.

Beijing allows only government-sponsored churches to operate in the country and the Catholic Patriotic Association is the state-sanctioned Catholic organization.

VoA says, "officials of the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong refused to comment on the Zhao case and referred questions to Anthony Lam, a senior researcher at the Holy Spirit Study Centre in Hong Kong. Mr. Lam said Bishop Zhao is not a part of the Catholic Patriotic Association, but he does operate openly, unlike many 'underground' churches and clergymen in China. Mr. Lam said that because Mr. Zhao has been practicing as a clergyman for more than 50 years, the government recognizes him as a priest, but not as a bishop."

VoA – China Denies Detention of Catholic Bishops
BBC News – Vatican condemns Chinese arrests
CWN – Vatican protests Chinese bishops' arrest
CWN – L'Osservatore condemns killing of Korean hostage

25 Jun 2004