Authorities have detained a Roman Catholic bishop from the northeastern Chinese city of Qiqihar, a U.S.-based monitoring group reported Tuesday.
Bishop Wei Jingyi was seized March 5 at a highway toll booth after traveling to the provincial capital, Harbin, to meet two “foreign friends,” the Cardinal Kung Foundation said. It said no other details were available.
Local officials said they were not aware of any such arrest.
“It must be some anti-Chinese powers publishing distorted information during the congress,” said Yao Shu, an official at the press office of the Qiqihar police headquarters.
The country’s legislature, the National People’s Congress, has been holding its annual meeting in Beijing since Friday _ a period when authorities often accuse activists of causing trouble to get attention.
Wei, ordained a bishop in 1995, has already served two terms in Chinese labor camps, from 1987 to 1989 and 1990 to 1992. His most recent arrest was in September 2002, according to the Cardinal Kung Foundation and other religious rights groups.
The foundation said that about six Roman Catholic bishops and 20 priests are in Chinese prisons.
China’s officially atheistic government allows worship only in a government-controlled Catholic Church that denies the pope’s leadership and right to appoint bishops.
Authorities harass and arrest leaders of the unrecognized Roman Catholic Church, which claims an estimated 8 million or more worshippers, double the total for the government-approved body.