Diocese of Baoding, Repression of Catholic Conscientious Objectors Continue

Those who refuse the Vatican-China deal and do not join the Patriotic Catholic Church are “disappeared.”

by He Yuyan

The Roman Catholic Cathedral of Baoding (now controlled by the Patriotic Church). Credits

Catholic conscientious objectors continue to be active in China. And they continue to be persecuted. After the Vatican-China deal of 2018, the Holy See encouraged the Catholics to join the once excommunicated Patriotic Catholic Church, controlled by the government. It also clarified that those who refuse to do so for reasons of conscience, although not encouraged nor approved by the Vatican, are not excommunicated, are still part of the Catholic Church, and should be treated with “respect.”

However, the way the CCP is expressing its “respect” to the Catholic conscientious objectors is by arresting them. The Diocese of Baoding, a prefecture-level city in Hebei province, at some 150 kilometers from Beijing, has emerged as a center of Catholic conscientious objection.

The authority of Bishop Francis An Shuxin, which was once part of the underground Catholic Church but later joined the Patriotic Association, is contested by the conscientious objectors. Churches and clandestine seminaries that refused to join the Patriotic Catholic Church were raided in 2020.

The conscientious objectors venerate as their model Bishop of Baoding Peter Joseph Fan Xueyan (1907–1992), of the underground Catholic Church, who “disappeared” in 1990 and whose body with clear signs of torture was left at the door of relatives’ home in 1992 in a plastic bag. From X. Credits

Human rights organizations have now learned that two leaders of Catholic conscientious objection in Baoding, Father Chi Huitian and Professor Chen Hekun, who were “disappeared” in April, have still not reappeared. Other Catholic conscientious objectors jailed in Baoding were submitted to heavy indoctrination in jail.

Despite the severe persecution, the movement of Catholic conscientious objectors continues to thrive. It is not a group of old priests and laypersons incapable of understanding the new times. In fact, conscientious objection appears to be popular among Catholic youth.