The "Church of Silence" in China and the Cuban exile

Until a few days ago, the names of Monsignor Fan, Monsignor Su and Monsignor An - three Chinese Catholic bishops that are imprisoned today in Communist China - were practically unknown to Cuban exiles. Nevertheless, a request for help received via Internet, from an international campaign for the immediate and unconditional release of these three bishops, stirred in the Cuban exile a moving reaction of solidarity with their enslaved Chinese brothers.

This solidarity from the Cuban exile with the persecuted Catholics in China, was manifested recently by the controversial visit to the United States by the Chinese prime minister Zhu Rongji, while hundreds and possibly thousands of messages rained upon the White House, the Secretariat of State, the Chinese embassy in Washington and editorial boards of important American newspapers, begging for the release of bishops Msgr. Fan, Msgr. Su and Msgr. An, in an initiative in which the newspaper Diario Las Américas informed thoroughly. The anti-Communist Cubans give to the world an example which the majority ignores - or looks at with indifference - the way of the cross through which the Silent Church in communist China, is experiencing.

The Chinese Catholics are currently 12 million people, approximately the same number of the total population in Cuba today. The persecution against Catholics in China - which has been implacable since the triumph of the communist revolution in 1949 - had a recurrence in 1995, when the arrests of various bishops, priests and numerous faithful happened again. In this new anti-religious assault, the pressures were increased so that Catholics would sign up in the Patriotic Association of Bishops, a "church" that is a front, without any bonding or allegiance with Rome, notoriously collaborationist with communism. The regime is courteous to the faithful who do not adhere to the Patriotic Association, giving them water and electricity to their houses, but hinders the education of the children of parents who are found to belong to this association and condemns to prison those Catholics that are found praying in groups in their own residences, informs the Vatican news agency Fides.

During his trip to China in 1998, president Clinton made a stop in Shangai, and the Chinese catholic faithful to Rome, experienced one of the most disappointing moments of their lives. While the "bishops" of the Patriotic Association Jin Luxian, stated in front of the American dignitary and TV cameras worldwide, that the religious practice does not encounter any kind of obstacles in China, while just a few meters away, the auxiliary bishop of Shangai, Msgr. Fan Zhong Liang, a Jesuit who is 80 years old, was being held in prison and uncommunicated in the garrisons of the State Security. Msgr. Fan had lived over 20 years in concentration camps, and continues being imprisoned today, as there are contradictory information as to his whereabouts.

The bishop of Baoding, Msgr. Su Zhimin and his auxiliary, Msgr. An Shuxin, 67 and 50 years of age respectively, were kidnapped 3 years ago by the State Security, and there is no information about their whereabouts today, affirms the news agency Fides. Nine other catholic bishops are constantly being followed and controlled by the police and at least there are 11 priests arrested.

The above did not stop the Chief of the Office of Religious Matters of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), while visiting the United States in 1998,to declare without any scrupule, that in China there are no "religious prisoners" but instead, individuals who "agitate the public order." This is one of the accusations that the regime makes against priests that celebrate Mass in places not authorized, or against the faithful that simply get together to pray in their homes. Despite the increased communist repression against the "Church of Silence" in China, there are very few governments and "human rights" organizations that have taken a position to start an initiative in favor of the unfortunate Chinese Catholics.

Nevertheless, according to a survey made in 1998, also cited by the news agency Fides, 70% of Americans believe that communist China is the "No.1 enemy" of the United States. This number is highly encouraging, as it reveals the so called "constructive compromise" of the actual American administration policy towards the Chinese regime, it does not have the popular backing, and it does indicate that a good number of Americans would be willing to support accusations against the flagrant violations of the rights of God and the Chinese men and women.

The persecution of communist China against Catholics, is beginning to provoke indignation among those who love freedom. "We are not going to allow the communist Chinese leaders to continue torturing with impunity, Bishops, priests and lay Catholics," affirmed in Washington, Renata Y. Jackson - director of the International Campaign for the liberation of bishops Msgr. Fan, Msgr. Su and Msgr. An - interpreting the discontent in many different sectors of the American public opinion in relation to get closer with communist China, in moments that have escalated the persecution against dissidents and against 12 million Catholics.

The Chinese president, Jiang Zemin, stated recently in Rome, and in an arrogant way, that he will continue with the "dictatorial proletarian system," and further on, imposed upon the Holy Seed two important conditions if she wants the relationship with China to prosper: "The first one is to break up relations with Taiwan, recognizing Populist China as the only legitimate government; and the second one, to stay away from our own country's internal affairs through the pretext of religion." Other statements affirming the decision to continue with the communist system, were made a few days ago in Washington by the prime minister Zhu Rongji, which reveals the way the Chinese leaders interpret the "constructive compromise" with the West and with the Catholics. The Cuban exiles, with their enthusiastic and generous adhesion to the campaign for the liberation of bishops, priests and faithful Chinese Catholics, perform a double duty and role: on one side, they support their brothers in the faith, victims of the same ideology "intrinsically perverse" that enslaves their own country and suffocates the Catholics; on the other, they contribute to strengthen the reactions of wide sectors of the American public opinion who are against closer relations with communist China as well as with Castro's Cuba.

(Diario Las Américas, Miami, Apr. 16, 1999)


Gonzalo Guimaraens is a political analyst, specialist in Cuban affairs
Diario Las Américas, Miami, Apr. 16, 1999

Gonzalo Guimaraens
Cubdest Servicio de Difusión

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