Foreign missions in Hong Kong must secure their archives and prepare to pack their bags. This is the warning that was given in the greatest secrecy, several months ago, by the head of the informal diplomatic representation of the Vatican in Hong Kong. This information was recently learned by Reuters.
Between October 2021 and March 2022, four meetings were held in the greatest secrecy to prepare the foreign missions for the worst.
The heads of the Catholic missions present in Hong Kong gathered around Bishop Javier Herrera-Corona, who was then responsible for the informal diplomatic representation of the Holy See in Hong Kong. The Mexican prelate urged the religious to protect their property, and secure their archives, as well as all sensitive documents that could be seized by the police.
“A change is coming, and you had better be prepared for it,” warned Bishop Javier Herrera-Corona, for whom there are no longer any illusions: “Hong Kong is no longer the great beach head of Catholic missions that it could have been.”
To put words into action, the archives of the office of the informal representation of the Holy See have been transferred abroad, with the utmost discretion: more than half a ton of files concerning the activity of the Church in mainland China were thus sent to Rome, by means of the diplomatic bag of a friendly embassy - since there is no embassy of the Holy See in Hong Kong, a provision set up in order not to offend the Beijing authorities.
The former Vatican official in Hong Kong warned that the ever closer integration of the former British concession, handed over in 1997, to China would lead to religious restrictions identical to those experienced by Catholics in the Middle Kingdom. Sooner or later condemning the missionaries to pack up and return to their country.
The four meetings were reported by several participants and made public by the Reuters agency: contacted about the subject, Bishop Javier Herrera-Corona, who has since become apostolic nuncio to Gabon and the DRC and promoted to archbishop, did not want to comment, no more than the Beijing authorities, who were also contacted on this subject.
But a sign makes it possible to corroborate indirectly the remarks reported by Reuters: last December, we know that the bishops of mainland China met with the various Catholic leaders of Hong Kong in order to inform them of the vision that Xi Jinping, the master of Beijing, has with regard to religion. One way to prepare the Church in Hong Kong for normalization, as also shown by the house arrest of Cardinal Joseph Zen.
The spokesman for the diocese of Hong Kong, cautious, confined himself to saying that he could not comment on meetings he had not attended, since they were reserved for foreign religious missions, adding that, so far, their activity had not been affected by the 2020 national security law imposed by Beijing: so many elements of diplomatic language that make us fear the worst.