Just before Christmas 1990, Chinese authorities arrested over 60 Catholics, including priests and bishops, in Heibei province. The arrests came as part of a widespread crackdown against Catholics who remain loyal to the Vatican and refuse to join the government-sponsored Catholic Patriotic Association.

One of those arrested, 51-year-old Zhang Weiming, worked as a translator in a factory in Baoding city and was an active member of the Roman Catholic community there. On December 14, he and his wife, Hou Chongyan, were walking along a street in Baoding when plainclothes city officials bundled them into a car—without explanation or display of detention or arrest warrants. Two days later plainclothes police officers reportedly searched their flat without a warrant and confiscated books and personal documents. After the two were held in “boarding houses” for two months, Weiming’s wife was released without explanation and Zhang was transferred to a detention center. He is still being held there without charge.

Zhang is reported to have had a heart attack in detention, where he is also suffering from arthritis and enteritis. He has been held incommunicado for over a year, and his family has been denied acccess to him since his arrest. They may not send him medicine or food, nor have they been informed of the reasons for, or the place of, his detention.

Amnesty International calls his arrest both arbitrary and illegal, and is calling on the Chinese authorities to release him immediately and unconditionally.

Equally evident from reading history is the link between the Christian tradition and the development of political and civil liberty. This is not to say that the Christian church has always exemplified tolerance through its history, ...

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