Chinese authorities have kidnapped and tortured a clergyman in a bid to coerce him into joining the state-mandated church.
According to persecution watchdog Bitter Winter, Priest Liu Maochun was meeting his parents in a hospital in Guangdong province on September 1, when he was accosted by the police and whisked off to an undisclosed location in Fu’an city for an intense period of interrogation. It was during his 17-day long detention that Maochun was brutally tortured, with officers banging a gong beside his ear and shining a bright light into his eyes for several days in a row.
A source told Bitter Winter that the torture was inflicted because Maochun was seen as “ideologically radical" and that the authorities were seeking to convert him to membership of the Chinese government-approved Catholic denomination, the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA). It is believed that he was arrested by members of the the Religious Affairs Bureau
International Christian Concern, a Washington D.C.-based anti-persecution group, says that such incidents have been ramped up since a provisional deal was signed between the Chinese government and the Vatican on the appointment of Bishops - ICC notes that the authorities have been targeting those they deem loyal to the Holy See and pressuring them to join the CPCA.
Maochun is believed to be an assistant to the diocese’s auxiliary bishop, Guo Xijin.
"The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) arrests and wants to control those priests close to him who also refuse to join the CPCA," ICC added. "Another leader in the diocese was also threatened by the government that his house could be demolished and his children sacked if he further supported Bishop Guo’s refusal to join the Patriotic Church."
Another source suggested that Maochun's arrest was due to his association with a leak related to the torture of another Mindong priest who refuses to join the CPCA, Father Huang. "The regime suspects that Fr. Liu may be one of the people who had shared the information about Fr. Huang with foreign media," ICC added.
The Sino-Vatican agreement was recently renewed upon agreement from both parties, though the details of the pact have been kept strictly confidential. According to UCA News, the Diocese of Mindong has become something of a "pilot project" for the implementation of the agreement, which is thought grant the Vatican a say in the appointment of bishops to the Catholic Church in China.
Critics say the Vatican is turning a blind eye to the millions of Catholics who continue to worship in unregistered churches and face the perpetual threat of government-led persecution.
Recently, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called out the Vatican over the deal, urging it to focus on pressuring China over its human rights record and brutal crackdown on religious freedom. "What the church teaches the world about religious freedom and solidarity should now be forcefully and persistently conveyed by the Vatican in the face of the Chinese Communist party’s relentless efforts to bend all religious communities to the will of the party and its totalitarian program," he wrote in an article for First Things.
On Twitter, Pompeo suggested that the deal runs the risk of undermining the Vatican's moral authority: