Asia’s Chief Bishop Condemns Cardinal Zen’s Arrest
Cardinal Bo calls on Catholics and the wider Christian community to stand up for freedom and justice in Hong Kong
Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong was arrested and later released by the city’s national security police on May 11. (Photo: bosco.link)
In the following statement, Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, Archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar, and President of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC), expressed deep concern over the recent arrest of Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong by the National Security Police charges him with “collusion with foreign forces”. Cardinal Bo called on Catholics and the entire Christian community around the world to speak out as freedom and justice, including freedom of religion and belief in Hong Kong, face grave threats.
Concerning His Eminence Cardinal Joseph Zen, SDB
As President of the Federation of Episcopal Conferences of Asia, and following the arrest on May 11 of my brother the Cardinal and Salesian confrere, Cardinal Joseph Zen, I wish to express my deep concern at the situation of human rights rights and threats to religious freedom in Hong Kong.
I call on Catholics and the wider Christian community around the world to pray for Hong Kong, and I urge the international community to continue to monitor the situation and stand up for freedom and justice.
Hong Kong was once one of the freest and most open cities in Asia. Today it has turned into a police state. Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and association, and academic freedom have all been dismantled. There are warning signs that freedom of religion or belief, a human right set out in article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Hong Kong is a party, is under threat.
I am aware of recent propaganda attacks against the Church in pro-Beijing media in Hong Kong, and growing self-censorship among religious leaders due to the circumstances. To see a city that was a beacon for freedom, including religious freedom, so radically and quickly take a much darker and repressive path is heartbreaking. To see a government in China breaking its promises made in an international treaty, the Sino-British Joint Declaration, so repeatedly and flagrantly, is appalling.
My brother the cardinal, His Eminence Joseph Zen, was arrested and faces charges simply because he was a trustee of a fund that provided legal aid to activists facing court cases. In any system where the rule of law exists, providing assistance to help those who are the subject of legal proceedings meet their legal costs is a legitimate and accepted right. How can it be a crime to help accused people get legal defense and representation?
On May 24, the Church celebrates the World Day of Prayer for the Church in China and the feast of Mary Help of Christians and, for China, of Our Mother of Sheshan. Last year I called for it to become a week of prayer every year, and I was heartened when a group of lay Catholics around the world responded to my invitation and created the Global Week of Prayer for China.
This year, I urge Christians of all traditions around the world to pray for Hong Kong in particular, and for the Church in China, as well as for Uyghurs, Tibetans and other persecuted people in China during this week of prayer, and to pray especially for Cardinal Zen on May 24 himself as we seek the prayers of Mary Help of Christians. If possible, churches could consider a votive mass on this day.
For the people of Hong Kong, it is now increasingly difficult to speak freely, so those of us outside Hong Kong who have a voice should use it on their behalf and dedicate our prayers and efforts to show them their solidarity and support, in the hope that one day their freedoms will be restored.
Cardinal Charles Bo
May 14, 2022