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Germany Demands China’s Release of Imprisoned Catholic Bishop

The German ambassador to China demanded that Chinese authorities release a Catholic bishop whom they have secretly held in captivity for over a year.

Ambassador Michael Clauss said that Bishop Peter Shao Zumin, who disappeared in September 2016 after the death of his predecessor, is alive and well. Government officials forced Zumin, whom the Chinese government refuses to recognize as a bishop despite his appointment by the Pope, to move four times in the last year to secret locations, according to an AP report.

“His full freedom of movement should be restored,” Clauss said in a statement posted on the embassy’s website.

While initial reports stated that Zumin was confined to his home, Vatican-affiliated Asia News reported that Zumin never actually arrived at his house and is believed to be held at yet another secret location, possibly within his diocese of Wenzhou where he was last seen in the company of government officials. The government’s secret detainment of Zumin is believed to be part of an effort to force the bishop to join the Communist Party controlled Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association as a power play against the Vatican.

Beijing’s refusal to recognize Zumin’s status, since the Chinese government has been at odds with the Vatican over who has the authority to name bishops since the 1950s when China broke all relations with the Vatican. China recently ramped up antagonism toward its local churches according to Clauss who said he was disturbed by “a number of new rules” drafted to regulate religious freedom within the country.

Clauss referred to the Religious Affairs Regulations Draft Revisions, published in 2016, which have yet to be officially adopted by the Chinese government.  The draft includes a regulation that would require religious institutions to conform to requirements for urban planning, which some activists fear could be used as justification to remove crosses and other religious iconography.

“If unchanged, they could place further restrictions on the right to freedom of religion and belief,” Clauss said.

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