07/03/2020, 12.51
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Card Zen: New security law will not guarantee full religious freedom

by Paul Wang

The bishop emeritus of Hong Kong has no confidence in China and fears government interference in Church affairs will occur in Hong Kong. Card Tong holds a different position. For Hong Kong priest, Beijing will only allow freedom of worship, but religious freedom is broader.


Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – “The national security law enacted by the mainland in Hong Kong cannot completely guarantee true religious freedom. [. . .] I have no confidence,” said Card Joseph Zen speaking to some young Catholics last Tuesday in a video posted on Facebook three days ago.

The cardinal, who is the bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, explains that religious freedom means that the affairs of the Church "are handled by ourselves without the need to involve the government. [. . .] If anyone arbitrarily amends Catholic teachings, we shall say ‘You are not Catholic’.”

Card Zen’s distrust stems from the situation of the Church in mainland China, where in the name of "sinicisation,” the government claims the right to review the doctrine of the Church in light of Chinese culture and even "retranslate the Holy Scriptures" according to its criteria.

Card Zen has taken a different position from Card John Tong, also bishop emeritus of Hong Kong and current apostolic administrator of the diocese.

Two weeks ago, after a meeting of religious leaders with representatives of the Chinese government who briefed them on the new security law, Card Tong gave his personal thoughts in an interview with the diocesan paper Gong Jiao Bao.

In it the cardinal says that the security legislation will not harm religious freedom because the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s constitution, which requires such legislation, also defends the religious freedom of the local population.

The cardinal’s interview seemed to be a response to a statement by some lay Catholics, who fear that the new security law will undermine the religious freedom of Catholics as well as the relationship between the diocese and the Vatican, which Beijing considers a foreign state.

In fact, the new law criminalises "collusion with foreign forces" for the purpose of secession, sedition and terrorism.

The Church in Hong Kong is divided over the issue and there is a risk of a great rift between the faithful and priests.

A priest who asked for anonymity points out that "in China, religious freedom in practice means only freedom of worship. Beijing is likely to allow the Church of Hong Kong only freedom of worship.”

In his view, “religious freedom is much broader: it implies freedom of association, speech, and expression in society, of travelling and having relations abroad with the members of one's community.”

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