July 13, 1992
His Excellency Zhu Qizhen
Ambassador of the Peoples Republic of China
2300 Connecticut Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008
Dear Mr. Ambassador,
As you know, American Catholics have had a long friendship with the Chinese people. We have great respect for the contributions made by the Chinese civilization and culture. It is natural, then, that we follow with interest and concern news of the Chinese Catholic Church. I write to you as the bishop who chairs the international affairs committee of the United States Catholic Conference to inquire about a number of reports that have come to our attention concerning restrictions on religious practice in China.
We know that the Chinese constitution guarantees freedom of religion, and we have heard of past efforts aimed at improving relations with the churches. We have also heard that your government has recently released some Catholic bishops from prison, and intends soon to release others. These are very welcome reports and we hope that they prove to be accurate. It is our conviction that Chinese Catholics have made, and are anxious to continue to make, great contributions to their motherland. We also believe it would be in Chinas self-interest on the international front to normalize diplomatic relations with the Vatican.
However, we also receive other serious reports about intolerance in the matter of free practice of religion, and some observers have reported that Chinese Christians are now experiencing the toughest crackdown on religion in decades. We are deeply concerned about these reports of religious persecution and urge that immediate steps be taken to ensure that such a deplorable situation does not in fact exist. I would be grateful to learn what steps the Government of China is taking to assure full respect for religious liberty.
For example, we understand that a number of Chinese bishops are in prison and are being badly treated, and that the body of Bishop Peter Joseph Fan Xueyan (Baoding), who died last April while in police custody at the age of 84, showed signs of brutal treatment. There have been similar reports about the late Bishop Paul Shi Chunjie who died in November of last year, also in police custody. Obviously, such reports deeply trouble American Catholics and all people committed to human rights.
I would be very grateful if you could share with me any information you could obtain about the numbers of Catholic bishops, priests and committed lay persons who are said to be in detention because of their religious practice. Among them, I would ask particularly for your assistance regarding several of my fellow bishops whose names follow:
Bishop Peter Chen Jianzhang of Baoding
Bishop Julius Jia Zhinguo of Zhengding
Bishop Joseph Li Side of Tianjin
Bishop Liu Difan of Anguo
Bishop Peter Liu Guandong of Yixian
Bishop Paul Liu Shuhe, auxiliary of Yixian
Bishop Casimir Wang Milu of Gansu
Bishop James Xie Shiguang of Xiapu
Bishop Philip Yang Libo of Lanzhou
Bishop Bartholomew Yu Chengdi of Hanzhong
Your Excellency, I will greatly appreciate your assistance and I look forward to receiving your reply.
Most Reverend John R. Roach
Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis
Chairman, Committee on International Policy
United States Catholic Conference