Local sources today have confirmed to AsiaNews that Father Pan Yongxing, a member of the underground Church in Hebei province, was arrested by police on September 2. Ma Yongjiang, a seminarian was also arrested with the clergyman. Eyewitness accounts say that eight police vans were mobilized for this arrest which took place at 3pm last Friday.
According to AsianNews, Father Pang, 32, has been very involved in evangelization activities in the countryside in Hebei. Until December 2001, he was parish priest at Beihezhuang when he was arrested for performing his ministry without official registration from the Bureau of Religious Affairs. He was sentenced to three years in a labour camp and was released a few months ago at which time he went back to his underground work. He was in charge of a community of 800 people.
In spite of provisions in the constitution that guarantee freedom of worship, the Chinese government allows religious activities only within the organizations and by staff registered with the Bureau of Religious Affairs. Any forms of worship outside these controlled parameters are considered unlawful and a danger to public order.
In China there are some 15 million Catholics from both the official and underground Churches. According to government figures, five million of them belong to official church.