Bishop Chow: The national security law must define clear boundaries
In an interview with a Jesuit publication, Hong Kong’s Catholic bishop speaks about the wounds left by the 2019 protests and subsequent crackdown. The Church did not just lay flat but increased support for young people in jail . But people today must listen to one another. For its part, the diocese is still working on plans to open a Catholic university.
Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – The ambiguity created by the way Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing authorities use the national security law has sown “confusion over what could be said and what could not”, and such a situation is an obstacle for those who want to heal society’s wounds, this according to Bishop Stephen Chow Sau-yan of Hong Kong.
The prelate’s remarks are found in an interview with an alumni publication put out by the Jesuit Wah Yan College (Kowloon) where he served as supervisor before Pope Francis chose him to head the diocese.
The South China Morning Post, Hong Kong's main newspaper, picked up the interview, which covers many topics, including the effects of the controversial law imposed by Beijing in June 2020 against "secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign or external forces”.
For the bishop, “The difficulty of the national security law lies in not knowing where the red line is. Educators, social workers, and even legal professionals face barriers”.
In fact, “Experts and law enforcers might have a different understanding [of the law],” he noted, adding that, “Everyone needed to know where the boundaries were so they would know how to express themselves”.
With respect to how the crackdown following the 2019 anti-government protests divided Hong Kong's own Catholic community, Bishop Chow urged everyone to play a role in reconciling a deeply wounded society.
Without being too critical, he also called on Hongkongers not to give up. “Sit and watch the clouds rise,” he advised. “It’s time to discern instead of taking action.”
With respect to the Catholic Church, she did not lie “flat’” and do nothing, he said, in the wake of the social unrest and introduction of the national security law. Its institutions and members increased support for young people in jail, by providing education and rehabilitation.
Calling for patience to heal the wounds of political divisions and deep distrust in society, the prelate urged people to adjust their attitude towards others.
“Hong Kong’s biggest crisis now is that different groups only think of their own interests,” he explained. Healing “requires each of us to listen and communicate with each other”.
Asked about relations with Beijing and the renewal of the Agreement with the Holy See on episcopal appointments, Bishop Chow said he hoped to visit the bishops of mainland China and establish ties, adding that the task entrusted to Hong Kong by John Paul II is to link China’s Catholic community with the universal Church.
“We hope to have more chances to talk and listen. Don’t worry about brainwashing, [which] implies that we are just brainless,” he said.
In the interview, the prelate also talked about plans for Hong Kong’s first Catholic university, a project he had promoted when he served as superior at Wah Yan College.
An application had been made for a site at Fanling, near the border with the mainland, but the authorities turned it down, officially because the land was needed for public housing.
Yet, the diocese has not given up on the idea and intends to turn the Caritas Institute of Higher Education, a college in Tseung Kwan O, into a private university to be called Saint Francis University.
Lastly, Bishop Chow said that arrangements had been made for a meeting with Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu, a former student at the Jesuit of Wah Yan College, but everything was cancelled after he fell ill with COVID-19 during his visit in Rome in September.
“I hope he gained the spirit and breadth of mind in Wah Yan,” Bishop Chow said. “I understand that he is subject to many political constraints, but it’s good if he is willing to communicate.”