A government statement said the police had successfully stopped 'illegal religious activity'

Police disrupted a Mass in a northeastern province of China in an effort to prevent “illegal religious activity”, according to reports.

AsiaNews.it reported that police raided a community hall in the Heilongjiang province during Mass on April 20, ransacking the place. A video clip shows police arguing with parishioners and attempting to arrest the parish priest and the community’s lay preacher.

Local authorities said later that they had “successfully stopped an underground Catholic priest from holding an illegal religious activity”.

Earlier this month, according to AsiaNews.it, two “underground” bishops – Bishop Vincent Guo Xijin of Mindong and Bishop Peter Shao Zhumin of Wenzhou – were detained by Chinese police to prevent them from celebrating Easter services in their dioceses.

Catholics in China are split between those who are part of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association – a government-controlled church whose bishops are appointed by the Chinese government – and those who, loyal to Rome, worship in secret.

In recent years officials at the Holy See have attempted to negotiate with Beijing on the appointment of bishops in the official church. In February Cardinal John Tong said an agreement had effectively been reached and he hoped the “crisis of division” in the Chinese Church would now be healed. The deal as it has been outlined in the media has been strongly criticised.

There are no formal diplomatic relations between the Chinese government and the Holy See.