BEIJING (CWN) - A delegation of US religious leaders asked the Communist Chinese government on Sunday to release about 30 Catholic, Protestant, and Buddhist inmates detained for practicing their religions.

      The group consisting of Rabbi Arthur Schneier of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, the Rev. Don Argue of the National Association of Evangelicals, and Catholic Archbishop Theodore McCarrick of Newark was invited to visit the country by President Jiang Zemin during a visit to the US last year. Schneier said the delegation gave the list of names to Ye Xiaowen, the government official in charge of religious affairs. The delegation also asked for information about why they were detained and how they are being treated, Schneier said.

      The Communist government has denied detaining anyone for religious reasons, but human rights groups and the Vatican report that many Chinese are imprisoned and persecuted for their beliefs. Schneier said the names on the list were suggested by members of the US Congress, human rights groups, and churches. The Communist government requires all believers to belong to state-run churches, such as the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, which eschews connections to the Vatican and many immutable Catholic doctrines.

      Meanwhile, the Hong Kong-based Information Center of Human Rights and Democratic Movement of China asked the US delegation to add the city of Tongxiang to their itinerary because the city is organizing a campaign to stamp out underground religious activities. Secret city government documents obtained by the group said secret Christian churches had attracted crowds of worshippers and violated China's official religious teachings.

ACKNOWLEDGMENT:To subscribe to Catholic World News Service, available daily by e-mail, click here .

February 17, 1998 volume 9, no. 34          DAILY CATHOLIC

Text Visitors to date in 1998