Cardinal Joseph Zen has called for the release of Hebei bishop Cui Tai, who was reportedly taken away by Chinese authorities in mid-April.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Zen urged the Chinese government to release Cui and “put an end to the inhumane and illegal detention.”
China is officially atheist and has its own state-run Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association; for years, it has persecuted the unofficial underground church loyal to the Vatican.
According to the Justice & Peace Commission of the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese, Cui – a coadjutor bishop of Xuanhua, Hebei – was persecuted for refusing to accept the leadership of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.
The group said Chinese authorities have targeted Cui since 1993, accusing the coadjutor bishop of “unlawful missionary work” and “illegally holding religious gatherings.” The situation worsened in 2007 and Cui was repeatedly detained without due process and justification since, it added. He was taken away again this April.
In a statement, the group criticised the Chinese government for violating its constitution as well as the right to religious freedom under the International Bill of Human Rights.
Zen has been an outspoken critic of a deal between the Vatican and China over the appointment of priests in the country. Under the proposed deal, the Vatican may make a major compromise to recognise a handful of bishops endorsed by Beijing, including seven excommunicated by the Vatican.