Seven documents released by a New York-based Christian group claim to show mainland authorities have systematically persecuted religions outside the Government's control. The release of the documents came as the Vatican announced that China had detained dozens of bishops and priests loyal to Pope John Paul and was closely watching many more, Agence France-Presse quoted the Vatican's missionary news agency Fides as saying yesterday. Fides released the names of 33 bishops and priests either detained or being kept under strict police surveillance and forbidden to worship. It said about 20 more priests, whose names were not known, were also being detained. The Committee for Investigation on Persecution of Religion in China released documents earlier this week claiming that Beijing was carrying out a systematic campaign against religious groups. The organisation's actions were in a bid to save banned South China Church founder Gong Shengliang and four of his colleagues, who were sentenced to death in Hubei province after a closed trial in December. Gong and his colleagues were found guilty of rape and assault. The Supreme People's Court in Beijing is reviewing their sentences. They will be executed if the court's approval - normally a routine procedure - is granted. The documents released by the committee include one by the Ministry of Public Security and speeches by provincial police leaders. Although Christians of underground house churches - those that refuse to register with the Government as required by the law - feature in the documents as prime targets for surveillance, other religious groups such as Catholics who remain loyal to the Holy See are included. The committee claimed the documents were provided by mainland security officers who were unhappy with the Government's religious policy. One classified document issued by the Ministry of Public Security two years ago identifies 14 groups as 'evil cults' in addition to the banned spiritual sect, Falun Gong. Seven of them were labelled evil by the two general offices of the Communist Party and State Council and they included the Shouters and the Total Scope Church founded by charismatic Protestant leader Peter Xu Yongze. The ministry branded seven others as evil cults. Xu was last reported as serving a three-year sentence for disturbing public order in Henan. His whereabouts are unknown. Gong's South China Church is a spin-off of Xu's church. Primarily based in Hubei province, the South China Church was forced to shut down last summer after police arrested at least 63 of its church leaders and members. Citing comments by top leaders including Public Security Minister Jia Chunwang, the committee claimed these documents showed that the hardline policy against religions had the consent of the top leadership and this policy had been acted upon by provincial police. In some of these documents, groups which promoted qi gong - deep breathing exercises - and religious bodies with links in the US and Taiwan were prime targets for close surveillance. The documents are the first hard evidence to show that the groups have been blacklisted. 'We want to smash the lies by the Communist Party,' said committee president Li Shixiong. Committee spokesman Bob Fu Xiqiu said the group would appear before the US Congress this week to give evidence on religious freedom in China.