Chinese police have detained one of the country's Roman Catholic bishops a US religious rights group reported yesterday. The US based Cardinal Kung Foundation announced that Wei Jingyi, underground Roman Catholic bishop of Qiqihar in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang, was arrested and taken into custody by police on 5 March. The Roman Catholic Church has been forced to operate underground as the government has intensified its persecution of independent religious groups. Bishop Wei has already endured two spells in labour camps totalling more than four years during the eighties and nineties. The Chinese Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the report. In theory Chinese law guarantees a degree of religious freedom, but the Communist government forbids all worship outside state-backed "patriotic" religious groups which it effectively controls. China broke links with the Vatican soon after the Communists took sole control of the country. During the 1950's the government expelled foreign clergy and established its own state approved 'Catholic church', the China Patriotic Catholic Association, which pledges loyalty to Beijing rather than the Pope. Despite continual harassment and arrest of its priests and members, the Roman Catholic Church in China claims an estimated eight million worshippers, double the total for the government approved body.
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