02/22/2006, 00.00
VATICAN – HONG KONG – CHINA
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Card Joseph Zen Ze-kiun (Profile)

Mgr Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, Bishop of Hong Kong, was born on January 13, 1932. Still a boy, he fled Shanghai for Hong Kong after the abbey where he lived was bombed by the Communists. He joined the priesthood in 1961 and, beginning in 1973, has taught at Hong Kong's Holy Spirit Seminary College.

From 1978 till 1983, he served as Provincial Superior of Salesians for Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. From 1989 till 1996, he lectured in both official and underground seminaries in China. In 1996 Pope John Paul II appointed him as Coadjutor Bishop of Hong Kong.

He angered the Chinese government which banned him from the mainland for six years for defending the freedom of the Church and the Vatican's decision to canonise Chinese martyrs.

He has been staunch critic of Beijing's response to the Falun Gong spiritual movement, which China's leaders have outlawed for "attempting to overthrow" the Communist Party.

After becoming Bishop of Hong Kong on September 23, 2002, he and his diocese voiced reservations about proposed anti-subversion laws, required under Article 23 of the Basic Law, which could easily lead to violations of basic civil and political rights.

In the same year, he voiced his concerns about the government's education reform package arguing that, once enacted, the new legislation would downplay the role of the Church in running Catholic schools and in promoting Catholic culture.

He visited mainland China on May 3, 2004, for the first time since 1998. In doing so, he became the first Bishop of Hong Kong to visit China since the Territory's handover in 1997.

He was named Hong Kong's 'Man of the Year' in 2003 for his commitment to democracy and his criticism of the disastrous leadership of then Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa.

Staunch defender of human rights and freedom of education, he continues to back the Territory's pro-democracy movement and the demand for universal suffrage.

He has launched legal action against the Hong Kong government to defend Christian schools.

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