Card. Zen ends hunger strike for freedom of Hong Kong Catholic schools
by Annie Lam
During his three-day fast, hundreds of Church school students, teachers, principals, faithful, local people and politicians visited him and expressed support and concern. The prelate stresses Catholic education values in schools: life education, love, sanctity of marriage, respect for human dignity and morality. Card. Zen rejected again any charge over donation from tycoon Jimmy Lai.
Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, emeritus bishop of Hong Kong, has completed a three-day hunger strike this morning, undertaken as an act of protest against losing a long-standing legal battle with the Hong Kong government over how aided schools should be run.
The 79-year old prelate, who looked fragile but appeared in good spirits, ended the fast at 10 am today after he had camped in protest outside a Salesian community house here, with a prayer with dozens of Catholics present there.
He told reporters briefly that he would further study the school regulations, hoping Catholic education be continued under the school management system.
Cardinal Zen, who suffers from high blood pressure and diabetes, noted his health indicators remained normal during and after the fast. He thanked medical workers who closely monitored his health condition, as well as local faithful and citizens for their support and care.
Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal had earlier rejected the diocese’s appeal against government-directed measures which end the Church's full control over Church-run schools, by allowing outsiders to be on the school management boards.
Hours before the end of the fast, on Oct. 21 evening, more than 100 faithful, priests and local people had gathered and prayed with the fasting cardinal. With rosaries, hymns and Scripture-reading, they showed solidarity with him and expressing supports for Catholic education values and Catholic educators.
Cardinal Zen told the prayer gathering that the Church hopes to preserve Catholic values in education, emphasizing the importance of life education, love, sanctity of marriage, respect for human dignity and morality.
Citing Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth), the cardinal said it is important for students to learn from school the values of justice, love and the respect for the weak and marginalized.
He said the Church would continue to seek advice from Catholic legal practitioners on how to operate based on Catholic education values under the school management.
During his three-day fast, hundreds of Church school students, teachers and principals, faithful, local people and politicians visited him and expressed support and concern.
Founding chairman of Democratic Party Martin Lee and media owner Jimmy Lai, both Catholics, visited the cardinal on Oct. 21 evening.
Cardinal Zen told the press that Lai did not mention his donations, but expressed worries about the impact of school-based management policy, and it is important the international world knows about the matter.
The school-based management policy within the Education Ordinance was introduced in 2004, which requires all primary and secondary schools here to set up incorporated management committees by 2010. The proportion of board members representing school-sponsoring body will be reduced to 60 percent within the committee, allowing parents, alumni and community members to make up the rest 40 percent.
At the start of his fast, media reported a total of HK$ 20 million (2 million euros) was given by Lai to Cardinal Zen in the past few years.
The cardinal admitted he received from Lai the donations, but emphasized the offer was “unconditional” and not with political aims, and disclosed that the money was used for charities and support to China Church’s open and underground communities (AsiaNews, 10.20.2011, "I received millions and spent them for the Church and the poor, Card Zen says").