Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – The Church in Hong Kong will publicly pray for religious freedom in China and for the bishops and priests currently in jail in that country. Although Hong Kong authorities initially did not want to authorise the event, the local diocesan Justice and Peace Commission was able to prevail so that tomorrow, the Way of the Cross will go ahead as planned. In the meantime, Hong Kong’s Bishop Emeritus, Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, and his successor, Bishop John Tong Hon, congratulated Liu Xiaobo for winning the Nobel Peace Prize, an award that “honours the Chinese people” as a whole.
During the gathering, in which Cardinal Zen will speak, jailed bishops and priests will be remembered, including Bishop James Su Zhimin of Baoding, Cosmas Shi Enxiang of Yixian and Father James Lu Genjun of Baoding.
Initially, the authorities had refused to grant organisers a permit for the event. In September, the Hong Kong Leisure and Entertainment Department had turned down the Justice and Peace Commission’s application to hold a procession starting at the Southorn Playground, claiming it was all “booked”. When organisers fell back on the smaller Lockhart Road, the authorities continued to be against their request for “political reasons”.
Only when the media picked up the story did the authorities grant permission to use the Southorn Playground. Nevertheless, the diocese was none too pleased. In a statement, it slammed the authorities for their attitude, which, in its view, tends to undermine the rights of all Hong Kong citizens.
At the same time, Hong Kong’s bishop, Mgr John Tong Hon spoke about the Nobel Prize going to mainland dissident Liu Xiaobo, saying that it “honours the Chinese people” as a whole. In his statement, the prelate congratulated the winner, who co-authored Charter 08, and his family. He also cited Chinese premier Wen Jiaobao who said that the appeal of democracy and freedom cannot be obstructed.
Bishop Tong also expressed hope to see the release of Liu and all those jailed for demanding democracy and freedom, including religious freedom, for they “can make a greater contribution to the country” and increase its “prestige in the international community.”
Speaking to AsiaNews, Card Zen said that some day he too hopes to see the day when the Chinese people can fully express support for Liu’s early release.