Hong Kong: Is the Catholic Church Being Threatened?
Prominent Catholic millionaire and media mogul, Jimmy Lai, has been arrested along with two of his sons and two executives from his company Next Media, as reported by the American Catholic website Crux.
Entrepreneur Jimmy Lai, among the most critical of the Chinese regime, was arrested on the morning of August 10, 2020, at his home in Ho Man Tin. The headquarters of his Apple Daily newspaper have also been raided with a large number of police looking for evidence showing “collaboration with foreign forces” under the new National Security Law, as the Italian Foreign Missions agency AsiaNews reported.
After the National Security Act, The Arrests
The 71-year-old entrepreneur was among 10 people arrested in a crackdown against the pro-democracy movement. These figures are accused of conspiring with foreigners to “cause chaos.” Their arrest was made possible by the new law that negated the “one country-two systems” model, in effect until June 30, 2020.
An adult convert to Catholicism and a close friend of Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong, Jimmy Lai continued a campaign for freedom with the Apple Daily, becoming a strong supporter of the democratic movement. His newspaper regularly published reports on scandals and corruption within the Communist ruling class. Thanks to the new security law, Beijing now has a free hand to prosecute him.
Jimmy Lai is known to be a staunch supporter of the Catholic Church in Hong Kong, says journalist Ellen Ann Allen of the Crux website. He reportedly donated $20 million to Cardinal Zen, who used it to support the so-called “underground” (unofficial) Catholic Church in China. The money given to the prelate would equal nearly one-third of all donations in support made by Jimmy Lai, according to the South China Morning Post newspaper. Most of these funds were used to strengthen the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.
Jimmy Lai, his two sons Ian and Timothy, and pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow were released on bail the night of August 11-12, AsiaNews reported on the same day. Lai and his two children, awaiting trial in September, have not commented. Agnes Chow denounced the government’s use of the new national security law “to suppress political dissent.”
Since July 1, Hong Kong has been the scene of mass arrests and a crackdown on pro-democracy activists. Cardinal Zen has repeatedly stated that he is ready to be arrested. Out of 7.5 million people, Hong Kong has about 900,000 practicing Christians, including 500,000 Catholics.
Why is Francis Silent on Hong Kong?
Cardinal John Tong, Archbishop of Hong Kong, so far has not taken a position on the new security law, saying in the diocesan weekly that he does not believe the new law threatens religious freedom. Cardinal Zen considered that his successor has made this statement to appease the Chinese authorities, but that it does not reflect his original position.
Cardinal Zen has also repeatedly criticized Pope Francis’s “silence” in the face of the actions of Xi Jinping’s government. Because while the sovereign pontiff and his administration do not seem to forego condemning the atrocities of many countries, Western or not, the attitude undoubtedly changes with Beijing.
The Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong posted on his blog on July 6 a lengthy reminder of the Vatican’s policy in China. He concludes with these reflections on the situation in Hong Kong: “In the current situation, they [the Holy See] are asked to remain in a ‘united’ position. At all costs? United in truth or in compromise?… Why, while all nations cry out at the injustice, is the voice of the Vatican missing? Does it really have to do with money? Why does the Vatican not want to refute the slander?”
The ongoing diplomatic negotiations for the renewal of the Provisional and Secret Agreement between the Vatican and Beijing may explain the Roman silence.
(Sources : cath.ch/crux/imedia/oldyosef/asianews – DICI n°400, septembre 2020)
Illustration : JackieCheu / CC BY-SA (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)