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Cardinal Zen contradicts Hong Kong cardinal: China’s new national security law will hurt freedom of religion

'We can see no benefit, no true religious freedom' from the Vatican's deal with China two years ago, Cardinal Zen says.
Tue Jun 30, 2020 - 6:22 pm EST
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Cardinal Joseph Zen speaks with LifeSite in New York on February 14, 2020. Jim Hale / LifeSite

HONG KONG, June 30, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) ― China has imposed a new security law on Hong Kong that Cardinal Joseph Zen believes will have a deleterious effect on religious freedom.

In a Cantonese video produced by the “Catholic Faithful Watching the Hong Kong National Security Law,” Cardinal Zen, 88, said the national security law imposed upon Hong Kong by the mainland government cannot guarantee “true” religious freedom. 

In doing so, he directly contradicted Cardinal John Tong Hon, 80, the Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Hong Kong since January 2019. Hon is known to be a booster of the unpublished agreement between the Holy See and China and recently voiced support for the new law.

“Cardinal Hon is very confident (in the law); I have no confidence,” Zen said. 

“Our religious freedom means that the affairs of the Church are handled by ourselves without the need to involve the government,” he said. 

Cardinal Zen stated that Hon had disappointed many people by supporting the mainland government’s new law for Hong Kong, but also that “there will be a lot of trouble” for the Church if Hon didn’t play along. 

Zen said the Hong Kong government’s liaison office had had a meeting with Hong Kong religious leaders on June 21, which he characterized not as a “rational discussion” but as a lecture in which the leaders were told they should thank the mainland authorities and support the new law.   

“We are not even informed of the details of the law, and we already have to agree,” he said. 

“This is wrong.”

In the interview, Zen said the Vatican’s concordat with China has not brought positive change to the beleaguered Church’s plight in the communist country.

“The Vatican signed the secret agreement with China two years ago already,” he remarked. 

“We can see no benefit, no true religious freedom.”

Zen observed that on the mainland, the Chinese government appoints the Catholic bishops. The Holy See says the pope has the right to remove inappropriate candidates, but Zen said he doubted that this is the case. He also referred to the government’s attempts to make Catholicism “more Chinese” and even to rewrite the Bible, something he finds particularly inappropriate. 

“The interpretation of the Bible should be left to the Church,” he said. 

He also stressed it was the Church’s “right and responsibility” to choose bishops, noting that the Chinese government doesn’t know what makes a good bishop. 

Zen stated that “even His Eminence Cardinal Hon” has to admit that there is “no true religious freedom” in mainland China and brought up the spectre of the ersatz government-approved “Catholic” church set up by Chinese government in 1957. 

“Please ask His Eminence this question,” he said to his interviewers. 

“What is he going to do if one day they set up a Chinese Patriotic Association in Hong Kong? Do you believe that Chinese patriotic associations can comply with the traditions of our Catholic faith?”

Cardinal Zen said there was no reason for the Vatican to remain silent on injustices perpetrated by China, as the Vatican does not have an economy that profits from doing business with the dictatorship. 

“I have no idea why the Vatican remains silent; perhaps she hopes to establish diplomatic relations with (China),” he said. 

“(But) why establish diplomatic ties if one has to obey the other afterwards?” 

Cardinal Zen believes that the new law will “destroy Hong Kong,” something he says will not benefit the mainland in any way. 

“Perhaps they are truly insane,” he said. “Who knows?”

China has just imposed its new law upon Hong Kong. According to the BBC, the still-secret law will “criminalize secession, subversion and collusion with foreign forces.” It will also “effectively curtail protests and freedom of speech.” The law is expected to undermine the freedoms that Hong Kong took for granted before it was returned to Chinese rule from Britain on July 1,1997. Between the handover and today, “one country, two systems” was a constitutional principle of China’s governance of the island nation.


  catholic, chinese patriotic catholic association, communist party, hong kong, john tong hon, joseph zen, religious freedom, vatican

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