Arrest of Cardinal Zen ship chills by way of Hong Kong’s Catholic church

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Even earlier than the arrest this week of its former prime cleric, Hong Kong’s Catholic church had been worrying concerning the impact of the Chinese language territory’s sweeping nationwide safety regulation.

Native Catholic leaders not too long ago determined to cancel annual commemorations of China’s bloody crushing of protests in Tiananmen Sq. in 1989 for worry of violating the regulation imposed by Beijing two years in the past, in accordance with church insiders.

The cancellation of this 12 months’s commemorative plenty on June 4 underscores the chilling impact that Hong Kong’s intensifying political crackdown has already had even inside spiritual communities.

However the arrest on Wednesday of Cardinal Joseph Zen has despatched new shockwaves by way of town simply days after hardliner and former safety chief John Lee, himself a Catholic, was confirmed as its subsequent chief.

It is usually prone to gas divisions inside the Catholic church about how to reply to growing political repression in Hong Kong.

Police have accused Zen of colluding with overseas forces, an offence beneath the 2020 safety regulation. The 90-year-old former bishop of Hong Kong is an outspoken human rights campaigner and was arrested together with 4 different trustees of a fund set as much as assist pay the authorized and medical charges of members in citywide pro-democracy demonstrations in 2019.

Monks and senior lay folks within the Hong Kong church mentioned that the concentrating on of the cardinal, who was launched on bail on Wednesday night time, had deeply saddened Catholics within the metropolis.

“When he was arrested I used to be actually shocked . . . I believe there will probably be extra suppression of the church in Hong Kong sooner or later,” mentioned one, who like different church insiders declined to be recognized for worry of repercussions from metropolis authorities.

The Hong Kong church has for greater than 20 years commemorated the crushing by Chinese language troops of student-led protests centred on Tiananmen Sq. on June 4 1989. However final 12 months Hong Kong cops have been seen standing outdoors church doorways holding video cameras.

“It’s not a secure time for us to carry the mass in public,” mentioned one particular person concerned in cancelling this 12 months’s commemorations. “We now have safety issues, as a result of the political scenario is getting tense.”

One priest mentioned that this 12 months “we won’t point out June 4. However will probably be in our hearts”.

Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s outgoing chief govt, is a Catholic, and her successor Lee mentioned final week that he nonetheless believed within the teachings he obtained as a baby at a Jesuit college in Kowloon, Hong Kong.

However requested by the Monetary Instances about Zen’s arrest, which was condemned by human rights teams and governments together with the US, Canada and UK, Lee made clear that Catholic credentials could be no safety for these accused of violating the safety regulation. “Motion will probably be taken accordingly whatever the particular person’s background,” Lee mentioned.

It was Lee who oversaw the introduction of the regulation in a earlier position as safety secretary. The Beijing-backed former policeman was formally confirmed as Hong Kong’s subsequent chief on Sunday and will probably be sworn in on July 1.

John Lee, Hong Kong’s chief executive-elect, with Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief govt, in Hong Kong on Monday © Bertha Wang/Bloomberg

“[Zen’s arrest] has additionally despatched out a warning that even spiritual leaders . . . can’t be exempted from penalties beneath the regulation simply due to their standing,” mentioned Lau Siu-kai, from the Chinese language Affiliation of Hong Kong and Macau Research, a Beijing-based think-tank.

The Hong Kong church mentioned it was “extraordinarily involved”. “We urge the Hong Kong police and the judicial authorities to deal with Cardinal Zen’s case in accordance with justice,” town diocese mentioned. “We now have all the time upheld the rule of regulation. We belief that sooner or later we are going to proceed having fun with spiritual freedom in Hong Kong.”

Present bishop of Hong Kong Stephen Chow, who was appointed final 12 months, has not taken any public stance on the safety regulation.

Nevertheless, the cardinal’s arrest is prone to widen divisions within the Hong Kong church between pro-democracy campaigners reminiscent of Zen and others who both supported the federal government or believed that the church shouldn’t be concerned in politics.

Professional-democracy activists have accused the church of siding with the latter camp, with many citing a diplomatic deal in 2018 through which the Vatican agreed that Beijing ought to have a say within the appointment of bishops in China.

Within the newest incident, a diocesan administrator tendered their resignation over a posting on the “Catholic Means” Fb web page on April 27. The publish, which was rapidly deleted, summarised a tv interview through which an area priest accused China of trying to manage faith in Hong Kong. The diocese mentioned the administrator had resigned of their very own accord.

The police investigation of the 612 Humanitarian Aid Fund, of which Zen was a trustee and which supported pro-democracy protesters, might even have implications for Hong Kong’s authorized system.

Police mentioned on Thursday that they’d complained to the Bar Affiliation and Regulation Society about alleged misconduct by unnamed attorneys who took on the fund’s circumstances.

“Felony investigation additionally revealed that numerous solicitors and barristers have been suspected {of professional} misconduct when offering authorized companies,” police mentioned.

“It’s apparent [the authorities] have commenced concentrating on attorneys who’re offering help to political prisoners in Hong Kong,” mentioned Eric Yan-ho Lai of the Georgetown Middle for Asian Regulation. “Authorized representatives shouldn’t be intimidated for who they signify.”

One Hong Kong priest mentioned that no space of life within the metropolis would escape the tightening of political controls.

“For those who ask whether or not [local] clergymen at the moment are extra anxious concerning the safety regulation . . . I’d let you know that everybody in Hong Kong is anxious concerning the regulation,” he mentioned.

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