An 81-year-old bishop was arrested by Chinese police this week in a clampdown on the country's underground Catholic church. The Cardinal Kung foundation report that several priests, religious sisters and laypeople were beaten and arrested. Bishop Zeng Jingmu, who has already spent more than 30 years of his life in prison, was taken from his home in Jiangxi province on 14 September. His detention comes a week after the Vatican reported the arrest of another underground bishop, Jiang Ming Yuang. The foundation said two other priests, Fr Deng, and Fr Liao Haiquing were arrested with Bishop Zeng. At least five nuns and five priests were arrested last month. Activists also report that police in Fujian province tortured an 82-year-old priest Fr Ye Gongfeng, until he collapsed. They also destroyed a church alter and beat worshippers. China does not permit people to practice their religion outside state-sanctioned churches, mosques and temples. The official state-approved Catholic church, which has an estimated four million members, does not accept the authority of the Pope. The Vatican says eight million Chinese are loyal to the Pope and worship in secret. A damning report on religious freedom in China was released recently by the US State Department. It criticises the authorities for clamping down on unofficial houses of worship and persecuting people for their religious beliefs. This latest incident coincided with the visit to Beijing of Cardinal Etchegaray. Christians are hoping that he will make a statement to the Chinese government on their behalf.
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