Home Christian News Arrested Hong Kong Cardinal a Fiery Critic of Beijing

Arrested Hong Kong Cardinal a Fiery Critic of Beijing

Joseph Zen
Retired archbishop of Hong Kong Joseph Zen, attends the episcopal ordination ceremony of Bishop Stephen Chow, in Hong Kong, Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021. Zen, the 90-year-old Catholic cleric arrested by Hong Kong police on national security charges, has long been a fiery critic of Beijing, along with efforts by the Vatican to reach a working arrangement with the ruling Communist Party. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

HONG KONG (AP) — Cardinal Joseph Zen, the 90-year-old Catholic cleric arrested by Hong Kong police on national security charges, has long been a fiery critic of Beijing’s control of religion and political monopoly, along with efforts by the Vatican to reach a working arrangement with the ruling Communist Party.

Zen left a police station on bail Wednesday night following his arrest alongside other former trustees of the 612 Humanitarian Support Fund, which provides assistance to people arrested during 2019 anti-government protests. The former Hong Kong archbishop has not yet commented on his arrest.

A police statement said the former trustees were suspected of endangering national security by making requests of foreign countries or overseas agencies and calling for sanctions against Hong Kong.

Widely condemned abroad, the arrests further a campaign to quash all forms of dissent in the city under a sweeping national security law passed in 2020, a year after authorities subdued pro-democracy protests that challenged China’s rule over Hong Kong.

The crackdown is increasingly penetrating into the city’s long-respected economic, religious and educational institutions, along with non-governmental organizations, many of which have closed down their Hong Kong operations. The city was promised that it could keep freedoms of speech, assembly and judicial independence when it was handed over from Britain to China in 1997, but critics say Beijing has reneged on its guarantees.

China’s Foreign Ministry fired back at the criticism, with spokesperson Zhao Lijian saying, “We are firmly opposed to any act that denigrates the rule of law in Hong Kong and interferes in Hong Kong affairs.”

“Hong Kong is a law-based society, where no organization or individual is above the law, and all illegal acts will be punished by law,” Zhao told reporters at a daily briefing.

Separately, the ministry’s office in Hong Kong issued a statement saying that “safeguarding national security is justified, foreign interference is purely in vain.”

Zen had once sought to build bridges with China’s Communist Party-controlled Catholic church by visiting Beijing-approved seminaries in mainland China. But he also said those experiences showed him the lack of religious freedom in China and fed a deep distrust of the officially atheist ruling party.

China broke off relations with the Holy See in 1951 after the party took power and established its own church. Foreign priests were expelled and many of their Chinese colleagues spent decades in prison or labor camps.

In recent years, the Vatican, particularly under Pope Francis, has been eager to reach a deal with the Chinese government and unite the churches.

Zen was especially scathing of attempts by some in the Vatican to reach an arrangement with the party on the appointment of bishops on the mainland, a power traditionally wielded by the Holy See which Beijing claims for itself.

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