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Cardinal Zen Arrested

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Hand reaching through wire fence

Retired Hong Kong Cardinal Zen was arrested on 11 May and faces charges “simply because he served as a trustee of a fund which provided legal aid to activists facing court cases” says Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences President Cardinal Charles Bo. Cardinal Bo has called for prayer for Cardinal Zen on 24 May, the Feast of Mary Help of Christians.

The call to prayer for Cardinal Zen is part of a broader Global Week of Prayer for China observed 24 – 29 May. It was established last year by a group of lay people in response to Cardinal Bo’s call for prayer for the peoples and the Church of China

 “In any system where the rule of law exists, providing assistance to help people facing prosecution meet their legal fees is a proper and accepted right. How can it be a crime to help accused persons have legal defence and representation?” asked Cardinal Bo. 

“Hong Kong used to be one of Asia’s freest and most open cities. Today, it has been transformed into a police state. Freedom of expression, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and association, and academic freedom have all been dismantled,” he continued.  

“There are early 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 threatened. 1 am aware of recent propaganda attacks against the Church in pro-Beijing media in Hong Kong, and of growing self-censorship among religious leaders due to the circumstances. To see a city that was a beacon for freedom, including religious freedom, move so radically and swiftly down a much darker and more repressive path is heartbreaking. To see a government in China break its promises made in an international treaty, the Sino-British Joint Declaration, so repeatedly and blatantly, is appalling,” he said. 

Cardinal Bo, who is also the Archbishop of Yangon in Myanmar, concluded that “for the people of Hong Kong it is now increasingly difficult to speak out freely, so those of us outside Hong Kong who have a voice must use it on their behalf, and devote our prayers and efforts to showing solidarity with and support for them, in the hope that one day their freedoms will be restored.” 

The arrest of Cardinal Zen has added to concerns about the situation for human rights and religious freedom in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, as well as for the Uyghurs, Tibetans and others facing persecution in China. 

Read the full text of Cardinal Bo’s statement here