Bishop James Su Zhimin


Bishop James Su Zhimin Born was on July 1st, 1932 in Tiangezhuang Village, Qingyuan County, Baoding City. In 1941, he entered the monastery of Yi County and then went to the Salesians of Don Bosco branch in Beijing to receive theological education. In 1956, due to persistence in the Catholic faith and refusing to join the CCPA, Su was arrested for the first time and released six months later. After the release, the Chinese government kept a close eye on Su and arrested him again in 1959. This time he was sentenced 5 years in jail. Su was released on June 6th, 1964, and was sent back to the village for heavy labour (“re-education through labour”). On December 29th, 1975 He was arrested for the third time and was released in 1979.

In 1981, Su Zhimin was ordained by Bishop Peter Joseph Fan Xueyan as a priest. He was arrested for the fourth time on December 23th, 1982. This time he was sentenced to 12 years in prison. On January 13th 1986, due to the replacement of the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, Su was released earlier than expected.

In 1996, the bishop was arrested during a religious procession for conducting unregistered religious activities (pilgrimage to Our Lady of Donglü).  In November 2003, his family discovered him by chance at a hospital in Baoding, surrounded by police and public security.  He has not been heard or seen from since, despite repeated international inquiries.  In all, he has spent 40 years in prison, without charge, without trial.  Before being arrested in 1996, Bishop Su Zhimin was held off and on for 26 years either in prison or forced labor camps.

Attempts at identifying or memorializing him, or holding public events in his honor, have met with hostile police action. Till now we do not even know if Bishop Su is still alive.

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A photo of Bishop Su and Bishop Fan. Holding by Su’s nephew Su Tianyou


Bishop Peter Joseph Fan Xueyan

Bishop Peter Joseph Fan Xue-yan
Photo taken in November 1990. Probably the last photo Fan had taken while he was alive.

Bishop Peter Joseph Fan Xueyan (December 29, 1907 – April 13, 1992) was a Chinese Roman Catholic priest and bishop who lived in China during the 20th century. He was born in Xiao Wang Ting (south of Beijing), China on December 29, 1907. He was ordained a priest on December 22, 1934, in Rome and he shortly thereafter returned to China to work in the diocese of Baoding. He worked in parishes, schools, seminaries, and in the Catholic Relief Agency during 1937–1951. His work took him to several provinces in China.

He was appointed the bishop of Baoding diocese on April 12, 1951 and ordained on June 24 of that year. He was consecrated by the archbishop of Hankou, Giuseppe Ferrucio Maurizio Rosà.

The Chinese government sought to control religious activities in the country and in 1957 it instituted the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA), which is a government mandated organization to oversee the Roman Catholic Church in China. The organization required the church to disavow the authority of the pope and conform to the dictates of the government. Bishop Fan, as well as many other Catholics loyal to the successor of Peter, would not renounce the Pope’s authority and he voiced criticism of the CCPA. In 1958, Bishop Fan was arrested and sent to a penal farm (a type of forced labour camp) until he was released in 1969. After the release, he was immediately sent back to Xiao Wang Ting and kept under continual surveillance,  because he was regarded as the “five black categories“.  There the local government forced Bishop Fan to do heavy physical works for 11 hours, every day, until he was arrested again in November 1977, simply because Pope St Paul VI had sent him a letter in 1976.  Under international pressures, the Chinese government soon released Bishop Fan in 1980, together with other priests in Baoding Diocese like Ji Yongxian and Qu Jingfeng. From 1980 to 1982 Bishop Fan devoted to the revival of the Catholic faith in Hebei province (Yuyencia). He encouraged followers to take back control of the churches previously occupied by CCPA and asked those priests who joined CCPA (many of them even married and had children) to confess their guilt. On January 1, 1981 Bishop Fan ordained Francis An Shuxin (who later became the Bishop of Baoding diocese) as a priest, even though An was lack of study in theology by then. Bishop Fan commented: “In the current phase we do not have a decent seminary, we can not expect our priests to be as intelligent as St Thomas Aquinas, but all our priests should be as loyal as St John Vianney. Knowledge is not the most important, but virtue is.” Fan’s effort for reviving the Catholic faith and competing with CCPA was quite successful. By the end of 1995, there were 14 priests in the “underground” Catholic Church in Hebei when CCPA only had 8. However, the Chinese government arrested Fan again in 1982 for “colluding with foreign forces to jeopardize the sovereignty and security of the motherland(里通外国罪)” (it was alleged he had had contacts with the Vatican and was secretly ordaining priests in his diocese). He was released in 1987, but placed under house arrest and continually moved around. In November 1990 he went missing and was assumed to have been dead.

On April 16, 1992 police officers dumped a plastic bag holding his frozen body in front of his relatives home. The government claimed he had died on April 13 from pneumonia. His body was found to have had broken bones and other injuries that may have resulted from torture. The government ordered that Fan should have a quiet funeral, but this was defied and a crowd of 40,000 people came to see the funeral. Local priests and bishops conducted novena prayers for the bishop. In 2001, out of the fear that Fan’s cemetery would become a sacred place for “underground” Catholic Church members, the government demolished every single piece of the cemetery. However, Church members remember the location where Fan was buried and still secretly go to pay homage to their beloved Bishop.

According to Wikipedia, Bishop Fan may have been the longest-serving prisoner of conscience in the world.


The plastic bag holding Fan's freezing body
The plastic bag containing Bishop Fan’s frozen body was found in front of the Church of Xiao Wang Ting (Fan’s hometown) on April 13, 1992. Two years after he was kidnaped by the secret police.


Bishop Fan’s Funeral:


Cemetery of Bishop
The communist government demolished Fan’s cemetery in 2001.


This is the place where Bishop Fan was buried. After the government demolished the cemetery, local church members marked this place with a plastic bouquet of flower and constantly go to pay homage to their Bishop.

Bishop Joseph Zhou Ji-shi, C.M.


Bishop Joseph Zhou Ji-shi, C.M. (周济世主教) was born in Guangyang village, Gaocheng District, Zhengding County, Zhili Province(直隶省正定府藁城县的广扬村), On January 23th 1892. In 1931, He was appointed by Pope Pius XI as the first native bishop in Diocese of Baoding (天主教保定教区/Dioecesis Paotimensis). In 1946, Zhou was further promoted to become one of the three Chinese Metropolitan Archbishop (the other two are Paul Yu Pin and Thomas Tien Ken-sin).

In 1949, the new communist regime started to persecute Catholic faith and deport foreign Catholic clergy from China. Both Yu and Tien exiled to the US but Zhou chose to stay, which made him the highest-ranking Catholic clergy in mainland China.  For refusing to participate in the government-controlled Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, Zhou was arrested in the 1950s and died in a prison in Nanchang, at the age of 80.