Chinese authorities have arrested a priest and 10 seminarians from that nation's underground Roman Catholic Church, a Vatican-affiliated news agency said Friday.
President Bush, who is due to visit China as part of an eight-day trip to Asia, called on China's leadership this week to give the public more religious freedom and other liberties.
The Rev. Yang Jianwei and the seminarians were detained Nov. 12 in Xushui City in Hebei province, a traditional stronghold of Catholic sentiment in northern China, AsiaNews reported.
Six of the seminarians were released later, but Yang and the four others remain in police custody, it said.
Calls to local police seeking confirmation of the report went unanswered late Friday.
The latest arrests apparently came shortly after security forces detained Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo, 70, from the non-government controlled Catholic church for the eighth time in two years, a U.S.- based monitoring group said Nov. 10.
Government agents took the elderly bishop from his home in the northern city of Zhengding on Wednesday, according to the Cardinal Kung Foundation.
A day earlier, police also detained two other priests from Jia's diocese, the Rev. Li Suchuan and the Rev. Yang Ermeng, it said.
Religious groups say Jia has been repeatedly detained over his refusal to affiliate himself with the Communist Party-controlled Catholic Patriotic Association, which rejects Vatican authority over issues such as the naming of bishops.
China broke ties with the Vatican in 1951 and demands that Catholics worship only in churches approved by a state-controlled church group that does not recognize the pope's authority.
Worship is allowed only in government-controlled churches, which recognize the pope as a spiritual leader but appoint their own priests and bishops.
Many Chinese Catholics, however, remain loyal to the Vatican and risk arrest by worshipping in unofficial churches and private homes. They are frequently harassed, fined and sometimes sent to labor camps.
The government's Catholic church claims 4 million believers. The Cardinal Kung Foundation, a U.S.-based religious monitoring group, says the unofficial church of Chinese loyal to Rome has 12 million followers.
Pope Benedict XVI has been reaching out to Beijing in a bid to bring all Chinese Catholics under Rome's wing. China has said it would like better relations with the Holy See, but it wants the Vatican to cut its diplomatic ties to Taiwan.