Chinese Government Threatens to Use Force to Close Catholic Orphanage for Disabled Children

By Joseph Kung | January 20, 2011 | 12:16 PM EST

Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo of Zhengding China in the orphanage he founded for disabled children that China's Communist government is now threatening to seize through use of force. (Photo courtesy of Cardinal Kung Foundation)

(Commentary) - Chinese government officials have told Roman Catholic Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo of Zhengding, China, that he must sign an agreement giving the Chinese government control of a church orphanage for disabled children and that if he does not do so the government may use force to seize the facility.

In the past, the Chinese government has repeatedly imprisoned Bishop Jia, including as recently as last year, because he will not renounce his allegiance to the Holy See.

We beg the world media and leaders to have the moral courage to stand up for the approximately one hundred helpless disabled orphans who live in the orphanage and appeal to the Chinese government not to carry out its threat.

Approximately twenty years ago, someone abandoned a handicapped infant on the doorstep of Bishop Jia Zhiguo's residence. The good bishop took the baby into his home, and that child is now about twenty years old.

Soon after Bishop Jia rescued this first disabled baby, word spread of what he had done, and more disabled babies were left on his doorstep. Over two decades, hundreds of disabled babies were brought to the bishop--some of them very sick—and this good man took every one of them in and made sure they were cared for.

Two children from the orphanage for disabled children run by Bishop Jia Zhiguo in WuQiu, China. (Photo courtesy of Cardinal Kung Foundation)

Unfortunately, some of the babies did not survive. But at least they were all baptized before they went home to God's house.

To help care for the abandoned children, the Bishop founded a community of thirty Catholic nuns, who devoted themselves to caring of these disabled orphans. The orphanage currently cares for more than one hundred children, who range in age from a few months to 20. The facility is located in WuQui, Jinzhou, Hebei.

Bishop Jia has never joined the Catholic Patriotic Association, an official church sponsored by China’s Communist government that does not recognize papal authority over the church. In China today, the Roman Catholic Church is an illegal organization, and Bishop Jia, as a true and faithful Catholic, must serve as an underground bishop.

By the mandate of Pope John Paul II, Bishop Jia, who is now seventy-five years old, was consecrated the bishop of Zhengding, Hebei on December 19, 1980. He has administered his Catholic orphanage for disabled children without the financial assistance of the Chinese government, but with the full knowledge of the government.

Bishop Jia has spent approximately twenty years in prison, and has been arrested thirteen times just since 2004.

When he was most recently released from detention on July 7, 2010, the Cardinal Kung Foundation reported that “in the presence of the government officials, Bishop Jia stated that he had not accepted the Patriotic Association and also had not accepted the authority of the Bishops Conference of the official Church. He further stated that he was and would always be firmly adhered to the leadership of the Holy Father."

A child in the Catholic orphanage for disabled children in WuQui, China. (Photo courtesy of the Cardinal Kung Foundation)

Bishop Jia did not attend the illicit ordination to the episcopacy of Father Guo Jincai on November 20, 2010, an event widely reported in the world press. Bishop Jia also did not attend the eighth National Congress for Catholic Representatives, sponsored by the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, which is not recognized by Pope Benedict XVI.

Probably because of Bishop Jia's repeated rejections of the Patriotic Association and the National Congress for Catholic Representatives, the Chinese authorities are now trying to punish him and break his staunch fidelity to the Holy Father by threatening the welfare of the one hundred orphans under his care and protection.

In December, 2010, Mr. Yin of the United Front Department of Jinzhou, Mr. Guo of Political Secretary, Mr. An of the Bureau on Religious Affairs of Jinzhou, Communist Party Secretary in the Village Wuqiu, and Director Chen of the Public Security Bureau of Shijiazhuang took Bishop Jia away on three different occasions. They tried to force Bishop Jia to sign an agreement to release all his orphans to the government, and to disperse the thirty Catholic nuns who have been serving the orphanage.

The communist officials threatened to take Bishop Jia away for a prolonged “study session” without any time limit if he refused to comply. Bishop Jia was also told by the government officials that, in the end, his orphans will be taken away with or without his signature, by force if necessary. However, Bishop Jia still refused to sign such release.

A child in the Catholic orphanage for disabled children in WuQui, China. (Photo courtesy of the Cardinal Kung Foundation)

In a desperate move, Bishop Jia called the Central Bureau on Religious Affairs in Beijing, protesting the above-mentioned threats from the local authorities. However, the Central Bureau said that such matters fall under the jurisdiction of the local bureau.

Even without any assistance from the government, the bishop and the thirty nuns have worked very hard to care for these disabled orphans who have grown to love and depend emotionally and physically on these devoted caretakers in their entire lives. Once they are forcibly separated, they will suffer irreparable harm.

The writing is now on the wall. I believe that the authorities will soon carry out their threats by forcibly closing this orphanage.

The Cardinal Kung Foundation today asks that those individuals and organizations who have a special focus on children, family and human rights, take up this special call to action. Please urge the Chinese Government to cease the harassment of Bishop Jia Zhiguo and not to dismantle this unique orphanage, which is truly a large family, which serves as a home to so many disadvantaged and handicapped children.

Contact the Chinese Embassy in your country and let them know that you, and the world, are keenly interested in this development and these children. Those who live in the United States may write to Ambassador Zhang YeSui, Embassy of The People's Republic of China, 3505 International Place, N.W., Washington, D.C., 20008. Time is of the essence. Please protect these helpless orphans. Make your appeal to the higher authorities of the Chinese government not to disrupt the care and love of these one hundred disabled orphans.

--Mr. Kung runs the Cardinal Kung Foundation, an organization based in Stamford, Conn., which is dedicated to informing the public about the persecution of the Roman Catholic Church in China. The website of the Cardinal Kung Foundation is www.cardinalkungfoundation.org.