The fate of a long-imprisoned Catholic bishop in China was the focus of a congressional hearing on Thursday, amid growing concern he may have died in the custody of the Communist government.
“President Xi Jinping: Where is Bishop Su, and what have you done to him?” Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), co-chair of the commission, asked in his opening remarks of a July 30 hearing of the bipartisan Congressional Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission.
“What have you done in secret to this extraordinary man of God? And why does a powerful dictatorship fear peaceful men and women of faith and virtue?”
Bishop James Su Zhimin of the Diocese of Baoding, in China’s Hebei province, was arrested by Chinese authorities in 1997. He was last seen by family at a hospital in 2003 while he was in government custody.
According to Bishop Su’s nephew, Chinese officials have reportedly asked the Vatican to appoint a new bishop of Baoding, UCA News reported on July 22. Their preferred candidate is Coadjutor Bishop Francis An Shuxi, a member of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, the state-sanctioned church.
The news of the request has caused concern that Bishop Su has died in government custody, although there has been no official report of his death.
On Thursday, Smith and other religious freedom advocates drew attention to Bishop Su’s plight.
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