Eighty-five year old, Monsignor James Su Zhimin, the « clandestine » bishop of Baoding Diocese, one of the bastions of the Roman Catholic Church in China, has been in secret detention for 20 years. Since his arrest in October 1997, the Bishop has never been able to give a sign of life or communicate any news at all to his family and friends.
In 1956 when he was a young seminarian he was arrested for having publicly opposed the Peking Government which was trying to set up a Chinese Church cut off from the Vatican. He would be freed in 1979. This is the start of a life spent in detention, in prison, in work camps or under house arrest. In 1996, along with numerous other Christians, he participated in a protest against the destruction of a pilgrimage site by the army. Massive arrests were made. He would be hidden by priests before being discovered and arrested in October 1997 by Public Security agents.
Since then he has been sighted on a single occasion in 2003 when he was hospitalized in a facility in Baoding, blind-folded and guarded by twenty plain-clothed policemen in a ward reserved for the authorities. Upon recognition by the personnel he was immediately transferred to a place which was kept secret.
In spite of multiple International interventions, no news of him has filtered out since. The Chinese authorities give a single, systematic answer to any inquiries concerning him: « We do not know. »
He has been detained for twenty years, in an unknown place, without any contact with the outside world, without having ever been judged or convicted. He has accumulated over forty years of life in detention. ACAT has been sponsoring him for more than ten years and has acted on his behalf on many occasions. Let’s give him our support, let’s request his release!
You can write to the Chinese Embassy in your country to request his liberation.
Here is a model for your letter which you should date and sign:
Monsignor Su Zhimin, 苏 志 民 , aged 85, has been held in secret for almost 20 years, since 1997, without having been judged or convicted .
This elderly man did nothing but exercise his right to the freedom of assembly and his right to practice his religion. His detention is arbitrary. It is not only against Chinese law but also against International Law.
I would urgently request that :
• he be freed immediately and unconditionally ;
• he be allowed to communicate with his family and friends ;
• he be given immediate access to an independent physician and receive the medical care which he may need.
Thank you for the consideration you will give my request.
Should you have difficulty finding the address for the Chinese Embassy in your country you might write to :
SEM ZHAI Jun
Ambassadeur extraordinaire et plénipotentiaire
Ambassadeur de Chine en France
11, avenue George V
By fax: +33 (1) 47 20 59 46