09/10/2020, 11.03
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Card. Zen: No mooncakes for prisoners. Prison authorities claim they are a 'political' weapon

by Paul Wang

The bishop emeritus of Hong Kong gifts the popular desert to inmates every year, since 2010. Pope Francis among the sponsors.  Prisoners react: “At least there are some people who still remember us and care about us during the holidays”.  Also last year, with all the pro-democracy demonstrations, he received permission.  This year, under the security law, the gesture is categorised as "a political activity".


Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - This year Card.  Joseph Zen, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, will not be able to distribute mooncakes to prisoners.  For the prison authorities they are a "political" weapon and as a result they have decided to withdraw the permit granted until last year.

Mooncakes are small cakes filled with lotus paste and egg yolk that people give each other as a sign of friendship and abundance on the occasion of the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Since 2010, Card.  Zen has brought mooncakes to Hong Kong prison inmates.  The cardinal is a frequent visitor to the prisoners and he says that the tradition of donating these sweets has become so strong that as the festival approaches some inmates are asking: "Your Eminence, no mooncakes this year?".  And some of them comment: “At least there are some people who still remember us and care about us during these holidays”.  In 2013, the campaign was also sponsored by Pope Francis.

This year - confided Card.  Zen on his blog - the Mid-Autumn festival will be "a little colder" due to the block on donations.

Already at the end of August, the Cardinal had launched a campaign to raise funds to be used to buy mooncakes for the prisoners.  The sweets would have been distributed on 1 October, the central day of the festival.

A week later, at the end of August, the cardinal issued a notice saying that the campaign for the donation of mooncakes to prisoners was canceled "due to certain circumstances".  The Cardinal warned that the sweets already purchased would be donated to other charitable organizations.  Whoever wanted could also withdraw their donation.

The "circumstances" that led to the cancellation of fund raising campaign were later explained on social media.  They state that "the prison authorities [the Hong Kong Department of Correctional Services] rejected the request because they classify the donation as a political activity."

In past years, Card.  Zen was also allowed to visit many young people arrested at the conclusion of the "Occupy Central" movement.

There is discussion on social media: last year, in the midst of pro-democracy demonstrations, the Cardinal obtained permission to visit the prisoners.  This year, months after the National Security Act, this donation has been prohibited because it is classified as a "political activity".

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