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“All human beings are born free and equal

in dignity and rights.”

- Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Bishop James Su Zhimin

Bishop James Su Zhimin

Detained Since: 1996.

Charges: Deemed counterrevolutionary. 

Sentence: No official sentence.

Biography: Bishop James Su Zhimin was an unregistered Bishop in the city of Baoding in the Chinese province of Hebei.  In 1996, the bishop was arrested during a religious procession for conducting unregistered religious activities.  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.  The Chinese government deemed him as "counterrevolutionary" because, since the 1950s, he has refused to join the Patriotic Association, the national Chinese Catholic Church which has detached themselves from the Pope’s authority. Attempts at identifying or memorializing him, or holding public events in his honor, have met with hostile police action.

Advocacy Partner: U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom


  • Su Tianyou, James Su Zhimin's nephew, has appealed for information about his uncle's whereabouts from Guo Wei, a religious affairs official who was involved in China-Vatican negotiations. Guo told him to wait for an improvement in China-Vatican relations before Bishop Su could be released (May 8, 2019, UCA News).
  • Last seen 17 years ago, Bishop James Su Zhimin is feared to be dead after Chinese authorities reportedly pushed the Vatican to recognize his assistant as a bishop in his place. James Su Zhimin's nephew, Su Tianyou, told the Union of Catholic Asian News that "it is feared that Bishop Su is no longer alive" (July 10, 2020, UCA News).
  • On July 30, 2020, Co-Chair Chris Smith led a hearing to highlight the case of Bishop Su and its implications for religious freedom in China (July 30, 2020).