Denver Newsroom, April 26, 2022 / 3:37 p.m. (CNA).
Speaking publicly under his own name for the first time, a Hong Kong priest says the Chinese Communist Party is using ideological tactics such as re-education and propaganda to undermine freedom of religion in Hong Kong, which has come under control Chinese in 1997. .
Speaking on an April 21 episode of EWTN’s “The World Over,” Father Vincent Woo, a Hong Kong diocesan priest and canon lawyer, said that because the CCP wants to control all aspects of society, this naturally includes the practice of religion.
Woo said he has observed that many Christian leaders are reluctant to speak out against the CCP’s actions for fear of being detained, or worse, by civil authorities. Recently, he noted, a Protestant pastor was arrested and charged with sedition for speaking out on his YouTube channel in support of a vigil organizer in Tiananmen Square.
“As priests and bishops, we are called to be prophets, to speak out against injustice in our society,” he said.
“But this example of the Protestant pastor shows the priests and bishops of Hong Kong that if you preach something against the government there will be enormous consequences, and because of that in the past two years you have rarely seen a priest or bishop in Hong Kong. it would say anything publicly against the Hong Kong government or the CCP.
Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China, whose citizens historically enjoyed freedom of religion, while on the Chinese mainland, religious believers of all persuasions are routinely restricted, monitored and oppressed by the communist government.
This repression by the government is not new. Woo hailed the heroic testimony of Cardinal Ignatius Kung Pin-Mei, archbishop of Shanghai in the 1950s, who was imprisoned for 33 years for refusing to swear allegiance to the state.
And since 2019, the CCP has intensified its efforts to restrict free speech in Hong Kong through various means, including in 2020 bypassing Hong Kong’s legislature to impose new national security laws on the territory, giving China greater power to prosecute those who criticize the government.
Under the guise of “inculturation,” the Chinese government has for several years pursued a policy of “Sinicization,” seeking to make religious faith more Chinese, Woo said. The Chinese government pursues a policy that anything in Christian teaching that does not conform to socialist teaching should be “pushed out”, he said.
A Reuters report from late December documented an October 2021 meeting in which Chinese bishops and religious leaders briefed senior Hong Kong Catholic clerics on President Xi Jinping’s vision for a religion with “Chinese characteristics.” “.
Mainland Chinese priests are required to register with the government in order to minister openly. In doing so, they are expected to acknowledge the government’s sinicization policy. The Vatican said it “respects the choice” of priests who refuse to register.
“Being registered in the civil registry is not just about signing a piece of paper. When you register, you are registered with the “system”, which means that the government will issue [you] a license to preach, to exercise public ministry,” Woo noted.
“But for you to renew your license, you have to meet certain criteria,” he said, such as taking rehab classes. And licenses can be revoked at any time, he said.
In mainland China, there is an underground Catholic Church, persecuted and loyal to Rome. Government-approved Catholic churches, on the other hand, have relatively more freedom of worship, but face other challenges, including government pressure to censor parts of Catholic teaching, while including Chinese nationalism and party love in preaching.
Most underground bishops are imprisoned or very old, Woo said, making the future of the underground church uncertain.
Woo felt that the CCP would likely aim to control Christian schools in Hong Kong, in an effort to control the minds of young people.
Hong Kong’s National Security Act 2020 contains a clause that all students must be educated on the law, he noted. Many religious schools associated with parishes and parishes could be held liable for what the school does if they do not comply with the national security law, and parishes could be closed as a result.
Xi’s communist government is “notorious for breaking promises”, Woo warned, and so any dialogue between the government and the Vatican will prove extremely difficult.
Woo also mentioned that it is encouraging for Catholics in Hong Kong that media mogul Jimmy Lai, a Catholic and billionaire who has been charged under national security laws, has chosen not to flee Hong Kong despite likely to spend years in prison.
“He wants to suffer with all the protesters who are imprisoned in Hong Kong,” Woo said, adding that he sees Lai’s actions as “taking up his cross” as Christ.
Asked if he was worried about what might happen to him now that he was speaking out, Woo replied, “I’m the only person in my diocese who is able to do that at the moment.”
“When I answer God, I will have to answer why I did not speak in April 2022 for those who have no voice. I have no choice, I have to,” Woo concluded.
At the end of January, the Chinese language newspaper Ta Kung Pao published four articles on Catholicism in Hong Kong, including one on the Archbishop Emeritus of Hong Kong, Cardinal Joseph Zen.
Zen, 90, has been a vocal supporter of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement for years and is a strong critic of the 2018 Vatican-China deal on the appointment of bishops. Woo said Zen taught him philosophy while he was in seminary, and Zen inspired many young priests, like him.
The newspaper article categorized Zen as an enemy of the CCP in the same vein as Falun Gong, a highly persecuted religious minority in China. The newspaper also called for bringing Hong Kong’s religious institutions under government control, AsiaNews reported.
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