BY STAFF REPORTER
A YOUNG priest in northern Hebei province has been released to his hometown after more than three months in detention, Church sources have said.
Fr Joseph Chen Hailong of Xuanhua, who has served in the Yanqin parish on the outskirts of Beijing since his ordination in 2009, had been detained since he was seized by plainclothes police on April 9, reported the Asian church news agency UCA News.
In recent years, government officials in the Zhangjiakou area have cracked down on priests who are not affiliated with the government-sanctioned Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.
Two young Catholics who were taken away with Fr Chen were released two days later.
Local Church sources said authorities held Fr Chen to question him about the whereabouts of Bishop Thomas Zhao Kexun of Xuanhua, who is in hiding from the government.
Chinese officials do not recognise the Xuanhua diocese. Bishop Zhao, who is in his 80s, has headed the diocese since 2007 but has remained underground throughout much of his tenure.
Fr Chen was held in isolation for nearly two months, during which time he suffered malnutrition, sources told UCA News.