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Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun led protests outside the Chinese government’s liaison office in Hong Kong on Saturday demanding official confirmation of the death of detained Bishop Cosmas Shi Enxiang.
"The news of his death had been circulating for two weeks. The government should give us an answer. Is he really dead? When and where did it happen? Will they return the remains to his family," said Cardinal Zen after the protest.
Family members said they had been informed by Hebei provincial officials in January that the bishop had died, but other local officials have subsequently denied knowing anything about the bishop’s whereabouts or indeed whether he was dead or alive, according to a Church source.
“One official told the family later that the official who informed them of the news was drunk, while another one said the family had misunderstood, saying that the official approached the family to ask if they knew the recent situation of the bishop,” said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.
“Isn’t it ridiculous that the officials asked information from the family when it was the government who detained him?” he said.
Bishop Shi, who has spent the best part of the last 60 years in various Chinese prisons and labor camps after refusing to denounce his loyalty to the Catholic Church, would turn 94 years old this month.
There has been no official confirmation by Chinese authorities of his whereabouts or whether he is dead or alive.
During a protest on Saturday, Cardinal Zen and members of the Hong Kong diocese held prayers outside the mainland’s main liaison office where they lay white roses to commemorate clergy who have died in Chinese prisons.
During the protest, petitioners also called for the release of another prelate, Bishop James Su Zhimin, who since 1997 has also been held in a secret location in China.
“I do not rule out that the government denied the death of Bishop Shi in fear that it would be accused of illegal detention,” said Or Yan-yan, an officer of the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission of the Hong Kong diocese.
The Chinese government’s failure to speak about their location in the wake of reports of Bishop Shi’s death could be to avoid damaging warming but fragile ties with the Vatican, Or added.
A source close to the Vatican told ucanews.com last week that the Holy See had approached the Chinese government through diplomatic channels to try to confirm recent reports of the bishop’s death but has so far received no reply.
Original article appeared in UCANews. Used with permission.