Beijing Says Bishop Wei Is Only Detained

Authorities Suspect He Traveled Abroad Illegally

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BEIJING, MARCH 11, 2004 ( The Chinese government says it has detained Bishop Wei Jingyi because it suspected the «underground» Church leader of having traveled abroad illegally.

The Beijing leadership made that announcement a day the Holy See asked Chinese authorities for explanations for the arrest.

China said that Bishop Wei has only been taken into custody, not imprisoned. AsiaNews sources said the bishop is being held at a prison in Harbin.

On Wednesday, Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro-Valls said from his press office that the Holy See was «worried and saddened" by the news of the bishop’s arrest and asked the Chinese government to reveal the charges brought against him «just as in any lawful state.»

Today, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said that «public security officials have not taken any restrictive measures» against Bishop Wei and that «the rumors do not correspond to the facts.»

Interviewed by Reuters, a director at China’s Bureau of Religious Affairs said his office had brought the bishop into custody in order to «speak with him.»

According to the director, Bishop Wei «had traveled abroad» with an ID card bearing his name, but with a photo that wasn’t his. An official at the bureau said that the office was looking into the situation.

AsianNews sources said that Bishop Wei, because of his fidelity to the Pope, is suspected of having «relations with a foreign state.»

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