Card Bo calls Hong Kong a ‘police state’ after Card Zen’s arrest

The archbishop of Yangon slams Chinese authorities, concerned about the lack of respect for human rights and threats to religious freedom in the former British colony. In a state governed by the rule of law, helping people on trial is legitimate. The prelate calls on the faithful to pray for Hong Kong and China on 24 May.


angon (AsiaNews) – Card Charles Maung Bo, president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC), has harshly criticised the arrest last Wednesday of Card Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong.

"Hong Kong used to be one of Asia’s freest and most open cities,” the cardinal writes in a statement released last Saturday. “Today, it has been transformed into a police state.”

Speaking about the repressive policy adopted by Hong Kong authorities at the behest of the Chinese central government, the archbishop of Yangon expresses deep concern about the lack of respect for human rights and the threats to religious freedom in the former British colony.

Card Bo bemoans the fact that the Hong Kong government has dismantled the city’s traditional freedoms – expression, press, assembly, association and academic freedom – and raises the alarm following the first signs of aggression against religious freedom.

“I am aware of recent propaganda attacks against the Church in pro-Beijing media in Hong Kong, and of growing self-censorship among religious leaders due to the circumstances,” he writes.

For him, seeing a city known in the past as a beacon of freedom, including religious freedom, moving so quickly and radically along a darker and more repressive path is “heart breaking”

He said he is shocked by China’s repeated and blatant violations of its international commitments regarding Hong Kong’s autonomous status, as defined in the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration.

The police released 90-year-old Card Zen on bail on the same day of his arrest. He and three other well-known supporters of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement are still under investigation in connection with the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, which until it was shut down helped thousands of pro-democracy activists involved in the 2019 protests.

Card Zen was one of the trustees of the charity, which stopped operating last October.

The ongoing police investigation is focusing on possible "collusion" between the Fund and foreign forces in violation of the draconian national security law imposed by Beijing in the summer of 2020.

Card Bo strongly challenges the arrest of his Salesian confrere. “In any system where the rule of law exists, providing assistance to help people facing prosecution meet their legal fees is a proper and accepted right. How can it be a crime to help accused persons have legal defence and representation?”

Finally, Card Bo calls on Catholics and other Christians to pray for Hong Kong and China on 24 May, feast day of Mary Help of Christians and Our Mother of Sheshan. The day coincides with the World Day of Prayer for the Church in China.

At Card Bo’s request last year Catholics and lay people around the world held a week of global prayer at this time of the year for all the people persecuted in China, be they Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Hong Kong activists or prisoners of conscience.