"Underground" Chinese bishop dies while in detention

.- A Chinese underground bishop, arrested 11 times by Chinese authorities during his episcopacy, died Sept. 9. He was imprisoned at the time.

Bishop Han Dingxiang of Yong Nian in Hebei Province died at the end of his almost eight years of imprisonment by Chinese authorities at the age of 71.

According to the Cardinal Kung Foundation, the government authority ordered that the bishop’s remains be cremated at approximately 5 a.m. the next morning. His ashes were buried immediately in a public cemetery and no priests or other faithful were allowed to be present at his burial.

With the exception of a few of his very close relatives, who were suddenly summoned by the government authority to his bedside before his death, none of his priests and other faithful were aware of his grave illness or the cause leading to his death. His last request before drifting into a coma was for his congregation to recite more rosaries.

Bishop Han was born on May 17, 1937. He was sent to a labor camp by Chinese authorities, from 1960 to 1979. He taught high school, from 1979 to 1982, and operated a medical clinic between 1982 and 1986 while he was a seminarian. He was ordained a priest November 21, 1986, and ordained a bishop three years later.

During his episcopacy, the Chinese authority arrested Bishop Han 11 times, according to the Cardinal Kung Foundation. His last arrest was on November 20, 1999 while he was conducting a religious retreat for some nuns. After approximately four years of detentions in various locations, he was moved to an apartment on the four floor of a police family unit where he stayed for another two years. On September 23, 2005, Bishop Han was secretly moved to an unknown location, which is where he remained until his death. He spent a total of about 35 years either in the labor camp, or in a prison, or in house arrest.

Joseph Kung, president of the Cardinal Kung Foundation, urged the Vatican to open an official inquest into the cause of the death of Bishop Han.

The Vatican press office said it had no information on the death, but noted that the Cardinal Kung Foundation has been a reliable source of information about the underground church in China in the past.

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