WASHINGTON (October 28, 1997) -- The Chinese government continues to seek "excessive control" over the Catholic Church, according to one U.S. Catholic Conference official, who today urged Secretary of State Madeliene Albright to press the issue with China's visiting President Jiang Zemin.
"Despite some improvements in religious freedom since the harshest years of the Cultural Revolution, there still remains a profound lack of understanding on the part of Chinese authorities as to the meaning of religious faith and the role of the Christian churches," said Jesuit Father Drew Christiansen in a letter to Secretary Albright. "I urge you to continue pressing the issue of religious freedom with President Jiang Zemin whenever the occasion arises."
President Jiang Zemin is scheduled to arrive in Washington today for informal meetings with President Clinton before a formal summit on Wednesday.
Father Christiansen, who heads USCC's Office for International Justice and Peace, identified three specific areas where improvements could be made in China's treatment of the Catholic Church: freedom for members of China's unregistered Catholic Churches to worship; the ability of Chinese Catholics to communicate freely with coreligionists abroad; and permission for a Vatican representative to take up residence in Beijing.
While urging increased religious liberty for Chinese Catholics, Father Christiansen expressed his gratitude to Secretary Albright for the efforts of the United States government in winning the release of Bishop James Su Zhimin of Baoding in Hebei province. The 65-year old Bishop had been detained on October 8 after more than a year in hiding and was reportedly released over the weekend.