- The Washington Times - Monday, October 27, 2003

LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH — Twelve underground Roman Catholic priests and seminarians have been arrested in China in a crackdown prompted by government fears of a religious revival.

They were detained in a raid on a retreat they were attending in Gaocheng, in the northern province of Hebei, said the Cardinal Kung Foundation, a U.S.-based religious rights group. An unauthorized church was bulldozed in a nearby village this year.

Religious gatherings are banned in China unless held under the auspices of state-approved religious groups. China broke links with the Vatican in the 1950s and has its own Catholic Church, which pledges loyalty to Beijing instead of the pope.

In the pope’s most recent list of new cardinals, it was widely assumed that one appointed “in pectore” — without his name being given, for his own protection — was Chinese.

The new Chinese leadership has given no indication of letting up on its stringent attitude to free religious belief, regarding it as a potential focus for dissent, as the meditation sect Falun Gong has become.

The country’s recently appointed leadership — including President Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao, the prime minister — have been portrayed as reformists, but there has been little letup in the government’s assaults on free speech.

The state broadcasting commission has told television and radio stations to refocus programs along orthodox communist lines. Newspapers have been given a list of topics to avoid, and academics and the media have been ordered not to discuss issues of constitutional reform.

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