Since the signing of the Provisional Agreement between China and the Holy See on September 22, 2018,—still secret—the first two episcopal ordinations were celebrated on August 26 and 28, 2019.
Fr. Anthony Yao Shun, age 54, was ordained bishop of Jining on August 26th, in the Our Lady of the Rosary Cathedral of Jining in the north of the country. Jining is the most important diocese of Inner Mongolia, home to about 70,000 Catholics. The ceremony was presided over by Bishop Paul Meng Qinglu, Bishop of Hohhot, Vice President of the Patriotic Association (official) of Chinese Catholics (CCPA), reported Elgises d’Asie (Churches of Asia), the information bureau of the Foreign Missions of Paris.
Bishop Stephen Xu Hongwei, appointed coadjutor bishop of the diocese of Hanzhong, in Shannxi province, was ordained on August 28 in St. Michael’s Cathedral of Hanzhong. The Press Office of the Holy See confirmed that these two ordinations took place under the Sino-Vatican Provisional Agreement, the pope accepted Bishop Yao and Bishop Xu before signing the Agreement.
Indeed, explains Sandro Magister on his blog Settimo Cielo on August 31st, “both of the new bishops had been elected to this role, last April, by assemblies of priests, religious, and laymen of the respective dioceses, all of them selected by the Chinese authorities, brought together at a hotel and instructed on whom to vote for. And in both cases it was the Chinese pseudo-episcopal conference, made up only of bishops officially recognized by the government, that presented the new bishops to Rome, which accepted them. The precise terms of the accord between the two sides are still secret, but it is abundantly clear that this is how it works.”
The official media of the People’s Republic of China have shown, with photos, that Bishop Yao Shun’s episcopal ordination was conducted without any particular tension and in accordance with the provisions of the Agreement. On the Vatican’s side, they also stressed the “consensus” that directed the appointment of the new Bishop of Jining. On August 26, Gianni Valente, in Vatican Insider, the Holy See’s official media, wrote, “the choice of the new bishop prompted the emergence of an important unanimous consent by the Holy See, the diocesan community, and the political apparatus around the profile of the candidate.” And the Vaticanist congratulates himself that “the Provisional Agreement concluded between the Holy See and the government of Beijing on the appointment of Chinese bishops provides the mechanism for finding solutions that are always in keeping with the apostolic nature of the Church, by keeping the door open for frank and direct discussion with the Chinese political authorities.”
Meanwhile, the sinisation of Catholicism is a reality that is progressing in China, supported by the Chinese Communist Party, to correspond with the directives issued by President Xi Jinping in 2015. According to these directives, says Elgises d’Asie (EDA), appear the censorship and modifications of classic texts in textbooks. Words such as “God,” “Bible,” or “Christ” have been removed from Hans Christian Andersen, Daniel Defoe, Anton Chekhov, Leo Tolstoy, and Victor Hugo, eliminating any religious reference. At the beginning of the year, explains the agency of the Foreign Missions of Paris (MEP), the Publishers of Popular Education, related to the government, published a textbook for the pupils of CM2 (middle school) level, containing four extracts from the works of foreign authors that have been censored to match the wishes of the Chinese Communist Party. Censorship that has spread throughout Chinese education, to the university where some teachers condemn and confiscate classics containing religious words. In fact, from now on, religions must assimilate to Chinese culture and submit to the Party. Sinisation consists in exalting national patriotism against “foreign” religions like Christianity. According to observers, this campaign against Christianity is due to fears that China will become “the most Christian country in the world” by 2030, as predicted by some sociologists, such as the American Fenggang Yang of the University of Purdue. (see DICI No. 375, August 2018) For more critical observers, sinisation also serves as a shield against democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.
Threats Against Hong Kong
This is the case in Hong Kong, which Beijing would like to totally subjugate, by removing certain rights, in force since 1997, on freedom of conscience and freedom of religion. Religious practice is free there, contrary to how it is in Mainland China.
Since March 31, the island of Hong Kong has opposed the government law to facilitate extradition to Mainland China. In recent weeks, the confrontations of the anti-extradition movement with the police have shown the first appearance of great police violence to suppress the movement. For this reason, writes Fr. Bernardo Cervellera director of the AsiaNews agency, a key issue of the protesters is the opening of an independent investigation into the excessive use of force by police, suspected of being in cahoots with certain local mafias, and of being led, advised, and supported by the Chinese People’s Armed Police.
The Italian agency Foreign Missions explained on September 7 that several shopping centers located near subway stations had become the scene of the anti-extradition movement protests, as a sign of protest against police violence in the subway. In fact, AsiaNews continues, the authorities refuse to broadcast the videos of the evening of August 31, when the police went down into the Prince Edward Station indiscriminately hitting protesters and passengers and spraying stinging gas. And after expelling journalists and photographers, the police spent long hours in the station. The movement is asking for the videos of this police intervention to be broadcast, as since then some protesters have disappeared. Although the government denies that there were deaths in the August 31 assault, groups of young people have deposited flowers and messages in front of the station, says AsiaNews.
It is also necessary to explain why the majority of the demonstrators are young (nearly 60% are under 29 years old), continues Cervellera, in an article of September 9th. Above all, there is the anger and disappointment that for two years the government has been deaf to the demands of democracy; and that adds to the frustration of seeing government policy that does not support social housing, but facilitates the growth of expensive buildings and luxury apartments. So that young people cannot plan to buy a house or a home to establish a family. Finally, there is the immigration policy imposed by China that facilitates the entry into the territory of Chinese graduates, ready to work for wages lower than those of the people of Hong Kong. This is dropping the labor market to the point where many young people in Hong Kong are forced to emigrate to find work.
Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, wrote on his blog on September 2, addressing the authorities: “Accept at least two requirements: remove the evil law and set up an independent investigation committee. If it’s a yes, I hope everyone will accept a truce, if not, October 1 [National Day] may be a great tragedy.” This October 1, 2019 Beijing hopes to celebrate with panache 70 years of the People’s Republic of China. Will it be a new Tiananmen, as in 1989?