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Cardinal Zen and the Art of Chinese Oppression

by USA Citizens Network
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Hong Kong arrests a 90-year-old Catholic prelate as a national security threat.
By The Editorial BoardFollow
May 11, 2022 6:22 pm ET

China has already crushed political dissent, a free press and an independent judiciary in Hong Kong, and its latest target is religious liberty. That’s the message with the arrest Wednesday of Cardinal Joseph Zen.

The Catholic prelate, age 90, was arrested and charged with violating the city’s national security law. Also arrested were pro-democracy lawmaker Margaret Ng, pop singer Denise Ho, and academic Hui Po-keung.

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The four were trustees of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, which accepted donations to pay for legal aid, medical expenses and other support for Hong Kongers who participated in pro-democracy protests in 2019. Cyd Ho, a former lawmaker who was also a fund trustee, is already in prison.

The 612 fund closed last fall after police said they were investigating it under the national security law. The arrest underscores that China wants to deter anyone from assisting in the defense of political prisoners in Hong Kong. As in China, defense lawyers may be next.

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There’s no doubt the main political target is Cardinal Zen, an outspoken critic of China’s religious persecution. He has criticized the Vatican for its 2018 agreement with Beijing that requires that bishops be acceptable to the atheist Communist leadership, among other concessions. Cardinal Zen called the secret pact “selling out the Catholic Church in China.”

It’s no coincidence that the Cardinal’s arrest comes less than a week after Beijing anointed former top security chief John Lee as Hong Kong’s next chief executive. Xia Baolong, the current director of Beijing’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, previously presided over the persecution of Christians in Zhejiang province.

Beijing fears that any surviving remnant of freedom in Hong Kong could spread to the Mainland, so it is gradually stripping the formerly autonomous territory of its liberties. Religious freedom can’t be tolerated lest Christian beliefs spread in China outside of state control.

Cardinal Zen’s arrest echoes the persecution of Catholic bishops during the Mao Zedong era. Cardinal Ignatius Kung spent three decades in prison for his refusal to accept government control over the church. The Muslim Uyghurs of Xinjiang province are in concentration camps today.

“The Holy See has learned with concern the news of the arrest of Cardinal Zen and is following the development of the situation with extreme attention,” the Vatican said in a statement Wednesday. That weak response does no credit to the Catholic Church or Pope Francis, who should renounce the Vatican’s Faustian pact with Beijing.

Reuters reports that the four prisoners were released on bail Wednesday night, but they face a maximum penalty of life in prison. A regime that fears a 90-year-old priest must have profound doubts about its legitimacy.

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