Citing ‘police state’, Asian cardinal calls for prayers for Hong Kong

Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, retired Bishop of Hong Kong, is seen before Mass on February 15, 2020 at St. Vincent Ferrer Church in New York City. Cardinal Zen, administrator of a relief fund paying protesters’ legal bills, was arrested and released by Hong Kong National Security Police on May 11, 2022. (CNS Photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

Catholic Press Service

YANGON, Myanmar – Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, has urged prayers for Hong Kong following the detention of Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun.

“Hong Kong was once one of the freest and most open cities in Asia,” Cardinal Bo said May 14. “Today it has turned into a police state. Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and association, and academic freedom have all been dismantled. There are signs ahead -runners 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.

Hong Kong National Security Police separately detained Cardinal Zen, 90, three other administrators of the now missing 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund on May 10 and 11, and all were released on May 11. The fund was set up to offer financial assistance to those involved in anti-government protests in 2019 and was disbanded after coming under intense scrutiny from authorities over the past year.

The Hong Kong Security Act 2020 made participating in or supporting the pro-democracy movement a crime of subversion and collusion with foreign organizations and authorized the extradition of pretrial detainees to mainland China. The sentence varies between a minimum of three years and a maximum of life imprisonment.

Cardinal Bo noted that Cardinal Zen “was arrested and faces charges simply because he was a trustee of a fund that provided legal aid to activists facing court cases. In any system where the rule of law exists, providing assistance to help those who are the subject of legal proceedings meet their legal costs is a legitimate and accepted right. How can it be a crime to help defendants get legal defense and representation? »

“I am aware of the recent propaganda attacks against the church in pro-Beijing media in Hong Kong and the growing self-censorship among religious leaders due to the circumstances. To see a city that was a beacon for freedom, including including religious freedom, to take a much darker and more repressive path so radically and quickly is heartbreaking,” Cardinal Bo said. way so repeatedly and blatantly, is appalling.”

Every May 24, the feast of Mary Help of Christians and, for China, Our Lady of Sheshan, the church marks the World Day of Prayer for the Church in China.

“Last year I called for this to become a week of prayer every year, and I was heartened when a group of lay Catholics around the world accepted my invitation and created the Global Week of prayer for China,” said Cardinal Bo.

This year, during the week of prayer, Cardinal Bo urged people “to pray for Hong Kong in particular, and for the Church in China, as well as for Uyghurs, Tibetans and other victims of persecution in China”. He said on May 24 that Christians should pray especially for Cardinal Zen, and he urged people to consider special Masses on the holiday.

“For the people of Hong Kong, it is now increasingly difficult to speak freely, so those of us outside Hong Kong who have a voice should use it on their behalf and dedicate our prayers and our efforts to show them their solidarity and support, in the hope that one day their freedoms will be restored,” the cardinal said.

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