Two priests from Handan in northern Hebei province were reportedly detained at the weekend amid tension between the Church and the government over a canceled episcopal ordination last week.
Bishop-elect Joseph Sun Jigen was supposed to be ordained with a papal mandate on June 29, the feast of Saints Peter and Paul. However, when Handan diocese refused to allow an illicit bishop to attend the event, the bishop elect was taken on June 26 to the provincial capital Shijiazhuang where he has remained. The ordination ceremony was subsequently canceled.
On Saturday morning the religious affairs bureau summoned Father John Huai Jianting, the diocesan chancellor, to discuss matters related to Bishop-elect Sun.
Father Huai disappeared after setting off from the government office in a diocesan car. His driver said the priest was taken away by government officials, according to local sources.
Father Huai has not been heard from since then.
On Saturday evening, diocesan consultor Father Peter Liu Xiuhua was also summoned by religious affairs officials.
According to his driver, Father Liu was later bundled into a van by several people as he left the government building at around 10pm.
Family and friends of Father Liu went to the religious affairs bureau to inquire into his whereabouts, but were simply told the priest had left earlier.
Sources said he was taken away by public security officials of the local district.
Church sources said local Catholics strongly protested and condemned his detention and demanded the government unconditionally release Bishop-elect Sun and the two priests.