Two elderly bishops freed in China

November 28, 1993|By New York Times News Service

BEIJING -- As President Jiang Zemin traveled to Seattle this month to meet with President Clinton for a tough discussion on human rights, the conventional wisdom was that China would not release any of its political prisoners as a concessionary move.

bTC But now, Western officials and human rights activists say they have confirmed that two elderly Roman Catholic bishops, one of them paralyzed and severely ailing, were released Nov. 19 after three years in prison-like conditions.

They have returned to their homes in Xushui County in Hebei province, church officials in Hong Kong said.

Both men were on the list of 300 political or religious detainees presented to the Chinese authorities in October by the State Department.

Bishop Peter Chen Jianzhang, 73, and Bishop Cosmas Shi Enxiang, 71, had been held in labor camps and what Chinese officials called a home for the elderly where the bishops were not allowed to leave and visits by family members were barred.

In China's first decade of communism, when religious persecution was greatest and ties to the Vatican outlawed, Bishop Chen was sentenced to life in prison in 1954. He was paroled in 1980. He has diabetes and is said to be completely paralyzed on his right side.

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