YANGON, Myanmar (LifeSiteNews) – One of Asia’s highest ranking prelates has condemned the recent arrest of respected emeritus bishop of Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen, denouncing his apprehension as a “threat to religious freedom.”
Cardinal Charles Bo, who serves as Archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar, in addition to leading the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences, expressed “profound concern about the situation for human rights and threats to religious freedom in Hong Kong” following Zen’s arrest on May 11, urging Catholics “and the wider Christian community around the world” to pray for the persecuted Cardinal and the state of Hong Kong.
In a May 14 statement, Bo declared that “freedom and justice” have been forsaken in what was formerly “one of Asia’s freest and most open cities” and lamented its transformation “into a police state.”
STATEMENT: “Concerning His Eminence Cardinal Joseph ZEN SDB” pic.twitter.com/IBehWKWYYz
— Cardinal Bo (@cardinal_bo) May 16, 2022
“Freedom of expression, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and association, and academic freedom have all been dismantled. There are early signs that freedom of religion or belief, a human right set out in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Hong Kong is a party, is threatened,” Bo wrote.
READ: Cardinal Zen’s arrest sparks outrage from clergy and politicians around the world
Please SIGN this petition calling on Hong Kong leader John Lee to cease all intimidation of Cardinal Joseph Zen following his arrest for supporting pro-democracy demonstrators.
Cardinal Joseph Zen, the Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong, was arrested by the pro-China security police in Hong Kong in a major escalation of intimidation against pro-freedom activists in the region.
Zen was one of four people arrested on May 11th on suspicion of "colluding with foreign forces", with the 90-year-old's detention marking the first high-profile move by Hong Kong's new Chief Executive, John Lee.
The Hong Kong security police targeted Zen as a trustee of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, which provided “legal, medical, psychological and emergency financial assistance” to those involved in the 2019 protests against the government’s Extradition Law Amendment Bill, which allows prisoners to be transferred to China for trial.
Cardinal Zen has since been released, but his passport was confiscated to prevent him leaving Hong Kong.
The arrest was made possible under the terms of Hong Kong’s draconian national security law, passed in 2020, which Zen warned would be used to silence the Church.
The outspoken cardinal previously confessed that he was prepared to go to prison under the terms of the new law, saying, “If right and proper words were considered against their law, I will endure all the suing, trials, and arrests.”
Cardinal Zen is a hero to Hong Kongers, and needs the world to stand with him today.
SIGN and SHARE this urgent petition calling on Hong Kong leader John Lee to cease all intimidation of Cardinal Zen today.
The people of Hong Kong, including Cardinal Zen, have lived under the shadow of Beijing since 1997, and know personally how oppressive Chinese Communist Party rule is.
This arrest of a Catholic cardinal by communist authorities in Hong Kong is a stark reminder of the harsh realities of life for all citizens of the region.
Cardinal Zen's plight demands the attention of all people of good-will, as his spirit of resistance in the face of tyranny continues to inspire new generations of Hong Kongers to defy the horrors of communist rule.
Please stand with Cardinal Zen today - SIGN and SHARE this petition calling for an end to the intimidatory tactics of the Chinese Communist Party's proxy leaders in Hong Kong.
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90-year-old Zen was arrested on May 11 under the terms of China’s draconian 2020 national security law, aimed at quelling a pro-democracy uprising against the communists’ tightening grip over the former British territory. Per the law, Hong Kong’s security police arrested Zen for allegedly “colluding with foreign forces.” According to Chinese authorities, the Cardinal was brought in alongside four others for their roles as trustees of the now-defunct 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund.
The fund had offered “legal, medical, psychological, and emergency financial assistance” to those who protested the government’s extradition laws, allowing for the transfer of prisoners to China to face trial. The work of the organization drew the scrutiny of Chinese authorities after assisting more than 2,000 people.
Bo noted that Zen’s work assisting “accused persons [to] have legal defence and representation” was no real crime, but that he has become the victim of “propaganda attacks against the Church” as Hong Kong moves “radically and swiftly down a much darker and more repressive path.”
Zen is set to appear in court on May 24, a date which Bo recognized coincides with that of the “World Day of Prayer for the Church in China and the Feast of Mary Help of Christians and, for China, Our Mother of Sheshan.”
“Last year I called for this to be turned into a Week of Prayer each year,” Bo continued, “and I was heartened when a group of lay Catholics around the world took up my invitation and established the Global Week of Prayer for China.”
“This year I urge Christians of all traditions everywhere to pray for Hong Kong especially, and the Church in China, as well as the Uyghurs, Tibetans and others facing persecution in China, during that Week of Prayer, and to pray especially for Cardinal Zen on 24 May itself as we seek the prayers of Mary Help of Christians.”
RELATED: Global week of prayer for the persecuted Church in China begins in wake of Cardinal Zen arrest
Bo represents one of the strongest voices of support for Zen against the Chinese regime in the wake of his arrest, while both the Diocese of Hong Kong and the Vatican’s responses have been more muted.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, made efforts to assure the faithful that the controversial Sino-Vatican deal had not been affected by Zen’s arrest as the Holy See announced that it was merely “concerned” about the arrest and that it is “following the evolution of the situation with extreme caution.”
Bo, on the other hand, reminded his flock that “[f]or the people of Hong Kong it is now increasingly difficult to speak out freely, so those of us outside Hong Kong who have a voice must use it on their behalf, and devote our prayers and efforts to showing solidarity with and support for them, in the hope that one day their freedoms will be restored.”