From Project Syndicate, by Chris Patten – Much of the world remains focused on the horrific developments in Ukraine, where Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military continues to commit war crimes against a sovereign country he claims is an inalienable party of Russia . Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, the story went from really bad to worse.
In a wacky selection process disguised as democracy, the Chinese Communist Party recently named a former police officer, John Lee, as head of the puppet regime. John Lee is not just any old cop† He got the job because he oversaw the brutal crackdown on protests in Hong Kong in 2019 after two million residents protested the city government’s plan to allow the extradition of criminal suspects to China. The proposed law change was necessary, said a pro-Beijing adviser, to make kidnappings by Chinese security forces obsolete.
the repression of John Lee replaced tear gas, water cannons, rubber bullets and tasers for dialogue† Even some of those providing medical aid to protesters have been arrested and beaten. Such methods have put the Hong Kong police force to shame, which can no longer be called the best in Asia. John Lee acted as if he also deliberately oppressed young protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989 — an episode he and others like him are now trying to prevent Hong Kong citizens from remembering during vigils and religious services.
I gained some knowledge of police work when I chaired the committee reorganizing the police force in Northern Ireland after the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. Lee’s approach to the 2019 protests has lagged far behind what good police work requires and what the public in Hong Kong has come to expect† Unfortunately, it is precisely for this reason that a man who has no knowledge of the economic and social policies that have made Hong Kong so successful has been chosen to lead the city.
Perhaps a sign of the worst to come, Lee’s appointment coincided with the May 11 arrest of Cardinal Joseph Zen, a former bishop of Hong Kong and one of China’s most famous and admired clerics from Asia. Cardinal Zen was detained along with three other people who, like him, were administrators of a humanitarian aid fund that provided legal and financial assistance to more than 2,200 people arrested for participating in the 2019 protests. Although the fund was previously liquidated under police pressure, the 90- The year-old Cardinal and his colleagues were arrested for allegedly collaborating with foreign troops in violation of China’s draconian national security law.
Also read: A cardinal arrested in Hong Kong by China
Cardinal Zen has long been one of the bravest and most eloquent defenders of human rights in the Catholic Church anywhere, especially in China. The significance of his arrest was made clear by Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Myanmar, President of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences† “How can it be a crime to help defendants gain legal defense and representation? † asked Cardinal Bo. Hong Kong was once one of the most free and open cities in Asia. Today it has turned into a police state.
For many CCP officials, Cardinal Zen’s real crime is not only his regular defense of religious freedom in China and, through his pastoral and intellectual courage, his potential threat to party totalitarianism, but also his criticism of secret Vatican agreements with Chinese leaders. . These pacts claim to build bridges between the so-called Underground Church in China, which has always been in communion with the Vatican, and the self-proclaimed patriotic church controlled by the Beijing government.
Read also : Arrest of a cardinal: Beijing denounces the criticism of the West
The alleged benefits of this agreement, which is supposed to improve the treatment of all Catholics in China (pastors and laity), are clearly so significant that they have remained secret. There may be too much to report. But it doesn’t seem unreasonable to ask why, when the deal is so good, nobody should know what it is.
In each case, the deal did nothing to alleviate the plight of Catholics or other Christians in China, where President Xi Jinping is clearly behind a nationwide crackdown on religious practice. Crucifixes have been removed, churches closed and bishops fired from underground churches, a well-known bishop, James Su Zhimin, has spent years in prison and has not been seen for nearly 20 years.
In Jiangxi and Yujiang provinces, priests have been placed under house arrest or banned from pastoral duties, while children have been barred from attending church. CCP official in charge of Hong Kong chopped off his teeth at Christian churches in the Wenzhou areain Zhejiang Province, considered a center of Christianity in China.
The church in Hong Kong, which has about 400,000 members, is clearly told to be careful not to offend its new CCP masters† Last year, city police foiled a vigil for the dead in Tiananmen Square in 1989, and this year the church canceled the event.
In response to all this, the Vatican simply issued a plaintive statement that it followed the arrest of Cardinal Zen. “with extreme care”† Should this really put the Chinese leaders in their place?
Read also : Hong Kong: Cardinal Zen in court
While the Vatican’s desire to improve relations between Chinese Catholics, the Chinese government and the Holy See is understandable, its attitude toward China is reminiscent of the Church’s behavior toward the Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s. hope this won’t turn out to be so harmful. to the integrity of the Church as these events have been.
Many Catholics will consider Cardinal Zen – who, as the University of Notre Dame has said, “has a conscience nourished by his faith” – as a more authentic representative of Catholic views on human rights than Vatican officials. And even if they target Ukraine, liberal democracies must continue to speak out against China’s attack on freedom and the rule of law in Hong Kong.
Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong and former European Commissioner for Foreign Affairs, is Chancellor of the University of Oxford.
Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2022.