07/12/2011, 00.00
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Hong Kong Catholics protest illicit Episcopal ordinations

by Annie Lam
A demonstration was staged this morning outside the China Liaison Office in Hong Kong. Local Catholics want the mainland to respect the personal and religious freedom of bishops and the release of prelates seized by the authorities.
Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – A group of Catholics in Hong Kong has staged a protest outside the China Liaison Office, the Chinese central government’s office in Hong Kong, calling for a cancelation of illicit ordinations, including the Shantou case on July 14. They also demand a halt to forcing Chinese bishops to attend such events.

Braving heavy rains today, the protest, organized by the Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong, urged Chinese authorities to stop the repeated illicit ordinations of bishops, as such acts are “greatly disrespectful” to the Church and have caused internal divisions and suffering to the Church.

The Chinese authorities have ignored the Holy See’s declaration of July 4 on the Leshan illicit ordination and planned another one in Shantou diocese for Father Huang Bingzhang on July 14.

Hong Kong Catholics said that Chinese authorities even pressured legitimate bishops, forcing them to join the event, thus seriously violating their freedom of religious belief.

Their protest statement cited Bishop Pei Junmin of Liaoning (Shenyang) diocese as one of the pressured prelates, whose priests have shown their opposition, and have attempted to protect him from being taken to the Shantou ordination.

Legitimate bishops in Guangdong have also been pressured to attend the ordination. Bishops Gan Junqiu of Guangzhou, Liao Hongqing of Meizhou, Su Yongda of Zhanjiang and Liang Jiansen of Jiangmen were taken away by officials, but their whereabouts are unknown.

Catholics have strongly protested against the brutal interference by government authorities into the Chinese bishops’ personal and religious freedom.

Catholic media have reported the case of Bishop Zhuang Jianjian of Shantou, who is in communion with the Pope but not recognized by the Chinese government. The 81-year-old Zhuang has been under surveillance since April 2011.

Citing China’s Constitution, which stipulates that Chinese citizens have freedom of religious belief, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which upholds the right to freedom of religious belief, Hong Kong Catholics urge Chinese authorities to respect their citizens’ freedom of religion and stop forcing the clergy to do what is against the principles of their faith and conscience.

Lastly, Catholics have called for the release of all members of the clergy who have been unfairly arrested. They included Bishop Su Zhimin and Fathers Lu Genjun, Ma Wuyong, and Liu Honggeng of Baoding diocese in Hebei, Bishop Shi Enxiang of Yixian diocese in Hebei, as well as Fathers Chen Hailong of Xuanhua diocese and Li Huisheng of Xiwanzi diocese in Hebei.

They hope the Chinese government would engage in dialogue with the Vatican in good faith, equality, pragmatic and openness, in order to allow local Churches perform their normal activities.
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