(Baoding, Hebei province—April 19, 2023) Father Xie Tianming of the Diocese of Baoding, Hebei province, “lost contact” with the outside world at 6 PM on April 10. However, it may be because he decided to become a government-recognized priest. In order to join the official Church, he has to undergo compulsory secret sessions of “political indoctrination.”
Joining the “official” Church
According to reports from AsiaNews, Fr. Xie Tianming’s disappearance has to do with his decision to join the official Church and obey the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The authorities took the priest away and detained him in an undisclosed location, where he would be politically “re-educated.” In other words, they will brainwash him. Priests may be detained for long periods of time until they prove that their mindsets have changed.
Information and news about Fr. Xie Tianming is extremely limited due to the long-standing information blockade imposed by the People’s Republic of China.
Authorities forcibly detain some religious figures in the form of supervision known as being “placed under surveillance.” Although not prison, the secret indoctrination sessions can go on for up to three years without the authorities having to press any charges. Those under serveillance are restricted in their movement and activities, and they are forced to attend political indoctrination sessions and join the official CCP Church.
Campaign against priests
Since the signing of the China-Vatican agreement on the appointment of bishops in 2018, the United Front Work Department of the CCP launched a campaign to require all priests to demonstrate their loyalty to the party for official registration. Those who refuse are taken from the parish or community and eventually end up in detention.
Many forced to join
In the past few years, at least half of the priests in Baoding who were formerly loyal to the Holy See officially registered with the government. In the first four months of 2022, 10 clerics who went missing were treated in the same way. Authorities released the religious figure one after the other last year after they were forced to undergo indoctrination sessions. Some of them subsequently joined the official Church; others who did not join remained under surveillance and could no longer perform their ministry.
Reports from those who do not join
An underground priest who was released in early 2023 after nearly a year in detention explained that he did not want to change his stance. The priest is currently under house arrest and surveillance.
~Gao Zhensai, Special Correspondent of ChinaAid