In the first official statement by a leader of the Catholic Church, Card Tong says he understands the need for a security law, noting that freedom of religion and speech are guaranteed by the Basic Law and must be respected. For the prelate, the relationship with the Vatican cannot be considered “collusion with foreign forces". Card Zen is "concerned" about Beijing's influence.
Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – The new security law that Beijing wants to impose on Hong Kong will not harm religious freedom, nor the right of the Church to speak out on social issues, this according to Card John Tong Hong, Hong Kong’s former bishop and apostolic administrator.
In an interview that will appear in Kung Kao Po, the diocese’s Chinese language weekly, the prelate said he understood the need for a security law, as provided for by Hong Kong’s Basic Law.
He also noted that the Basic Law itself guarantees religious freedom and the right of churches to comment on social issues. The new law is not expected to curtail that.
At the same time, Card Tong calls on Beijing and the local government to address the concerns of the people of Hong Kong.
The cardinal's remarks are the first by a Catholic official, and seemingly contradict statements made by members of the Justice and Peace Commission who want Beijing to fully implement democracy in the territory before introducing a security law.
In recent days, a group of lay Catholics issued a statement in which they expressed concerns about possible limits to the religious freedom of Hong Kong Catholics, suggesting that relations with the Vatican could be deemed as "collusion with foreign forces" under the new law.
For Card Tong, “the Hong Kong Catholic Church has always had a direct relationship with the Vatican; the relationship between the Hong Kong diocese and the Vatican should be regarded as an internal matter” and not “collusion with foreign forces”.
In recent weeks, many international and local leaders have spoken out against the law, which would do away with the "One country, two systems" principle on which Hong Kong's life has been based.
Even Hong Kong’s former chief judge expressed fears that the new law could undermine the independence of the local judiciary.
Card Tong’s position is also different from that of Card Joseph Zen, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong. In a number of interviews with international media, Zen said that he was "worried" about the new law, whose interpretation would be in the hands of Beijing, allowing the mainland to intervene in Hong Kong’s justice system.
A priest, who preferred anonymity, said that “Card Tong’s position is understandable. The security law is provided for in the Basic Law and therefore no one can be against it. And the Basic Law itself guarantees religious rights and free speech, which Beijing would be forced to respect.”