Photo: Bishop Augustine Cui Tai of Xuanhua Diocese (ChinaAid)
(Hebei province—February 24, 2023) Bishop Augustine Cui Tai has been illegally detained, without any legal procedure, by the authorities for nearly 16 years. Since the Spring of 2021, the bishop has not returned home nor appeared in public.
Since 2007, Bishop Augustine Cui Tai has been regularly detained by the authorities on several occasions. He was often placed under isolation in secret detention centers or hotels. Government officials took him on “trips,” a form of kidnapping.
Usually, they release him briefly during the Chinese New Year and Mid-Autumn Festival. They allowed him to go home and visit his sister once. Otherwise, he remained under surveillance without legal charges or due process.
COVID during his detention
During the 2020 pandemic in China, Bishop Cui was able to spend six months with his family from January to June 2020. This was the most prolonged period the bishop was free since 2007.
Since the spring of 2021, there has been no news about him.
Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association
Bishop Augustine Cui Tai served as a well-liked bishop, but he drew the attention of the Chinese regime for refusing to join the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.
In early 2013, after consultation and careful inspection by the Holy See, Pope Benedict XVI approved and appointed Bishop Cui as Coadjutor Bishop of Xuanhua Diocese. In April, Bishop Cui was ordained, and Bishop Thomas Zhao Duomo (Zhao Kexun) of the diocese entrusted Bishop Cui with full authority to manage the diocese. Bishop Thomas Zhao Kexun passed away in 2018 due to old age and physical decline while hiding to avoid friction with the Communist Party. According to canon law, Bishop Cui automatically took over as the Coadjutor Bishop of Xuanhua Diocese.
“Underground” clergy mistreated
This year coincides with the 10th anniversary of Bishop Augustine Cui Tai’s ordination. The believers of Xuanhua Diocese have not heard any news of the bishop, but they pray for the bishop’s safety and hope that he will return to the faithful as soon as possible.
A source relayed to AsiaNews that in today’s times, where China and the Holy See’s relations are gradually improving, the authorities are still using such inhumane methods of persecution to treat weak and sick religious persons. Bishop Augustine Cui Tai, 73 years old, suffered from stomach problems. The faithful criticized the high-pressure and coercive policies adopted by authorities without any attitude of equal dialogue and sincerity in solving problems. The source hopes that through AsiaNews, more people will pay attention to and understand the current situation of the Church in China and call on the authorities to end illegal detention and unconditionally release the imprisoned Bishop Augustine Cui Tai as soon as possible.
Since signing the agreement between the Holy See and Beijing, the Chinese authorities have intensified the speed and intensity of the suppression of underground churches. They used the signing of the Vatican-China agreement and the improvement of relations as bait to try to force underground Catholics to join the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.
~Gao Zhensai, Special Correspondent ChinaAid