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CHINA: The tragic arrest of Cardinal Zen (90)/ Appeal for strong response of Rome

The tragic arrest of Cardinal Zen (90)


FOREF Appeals For Strong Roman Catholic Church Response To Arrest Of Cardinal Zen



FOREFEurope (17.05.2022) – https://bit.ly/39DXoWfThe Vatican should more forcefully oppose the arrest of Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-Kiun, a retired Hong Kong archbishop who has courageously opposed human rights violations, and Western governments should sanction responsible Hong Kong officials, urged a Vienna-based, independent human rights organisation.


“Cardinal Zen courageously risked his own freedom and security for the principle of human rights, but the Vatican’s response has been cautious, appearing almost indifferent,” according to Dr. Aaron Rhodes, president of the Vienna-based Forum for Religious Freedom-Europe and Senior Fellow in the Common Sense Society.


“The Bible urges us to ‘Be not afraid.’  The Church should not be afraid of Communist China, and should use its moral authority to denounce the arrest, and China’s other massive degradations of human dignity,” he said.


Zen was detained by Chinese authorities on 11 May 2022, and charged with “collusion with foreign forces” under Hong Kong’s National Security Law, imposed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 2020.  Zen was a Trustee of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Foundation, which assisted protesters to pay their legal fees.  Arrested along with three colleagues who also supported the Foundation, Zen was later released on bail, but faces harsh penalties if convicted.


On 11 May, a Vatican statement said the Holy See had “learned with concern” of the arrest.  Further comment from Vatican officials said the Church was “very displeased” and expressed the hope that the incident would not “complicate the already complex and not simple path of dialogue between the Holy See and the Church in China.”


Other Catholic leaders have shown more moral clarity:  The president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ conferences, Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon, said that Hong Kong has been “transformed into a police state,” and that China’s “blatant” abrogation of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, was “appalling.”


Dr. Ján Figel, former European Union Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief, told FOREF, “Human dignity is a foundational principle of our universal brotherhood and fundamental human rights. Regrettably, dignity of any dissenting person is brutally abused by Chinese and Hong Kong’s power holders today.”


 Antonio Stango, President of the Italian Federation for Human Rights, said, “The extension to Hong Kong of the suppressive system of mainland China is just a further step in the regime’s program of annihilation of any remaining freedom of conscience, in blatant contrast with international human rights law.”


 The arrest of Cardinal Zen was also denounced by Stand With Hong Kong Vienna.  The group told FOREF that the arrest “shows how the arbitrary regime weaponizes the vagueness of Hong Kong’s national security law to induce terror in anyone who wants a democratic Hong Kong.” 


 “It is time that Magnitsky-type sanctions be applied to Hong Kong officials responsible for these arrests, and for destruction of the general Rule of Law in the city,” according to FOREF’s Executive Director Peter Zoehrer.


Zoehrer also expressed the hope that the Vatican will critically review its 2018 arrangement with the  CCP, which gives the CCP veto power on the appointment of Chinese bishops, and arrangements which, under new CCP rules, “stipulate that CPCC-aligned clergy actively support the ruling Communist Party. Article 3 requires them to ‘support the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party’ and “the socialist system,” as well as to ‘practice the core values of socialism.’” 


“No one should underestimate the challenges faced by the Church in China, but religious freedom means nothing if it is compromised to maintain the presence of institutions,” he said.


Willy Fautré, director of Human Rights Without Frontiers, told FOREF: “Cardinal Zen is being persecuted for being a long-standing critic of the government in Beijing, for speaking out for Catholics in mainland China and for more democracy in Hong Kong. This is a shocking repression measure to which the Vatican’s timid reaction is inadequate.”

For more information:

Dr. Aaron Rhodes: aaronarhodes@gmail.com, @Rhodesaaron

Peter Zoehrer:  office@foref-europe.org, @FOREF_EU

Further reading about FORB in China on HRWF website

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CHINA: The European Parliament stands with the people of Hong Kong

CHINA: The European Parliament stands with the people of Hong Kong


By Dr Zsuzsa Anna Ferenczy for Human Rights Without Frontiers



HRWF (22.01.2022) – On January 20, the European Parliament voted with an overwhelming majority (585 in favor, 46 against, 41 abstentions) in support of an urgency resolution on violations of fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong. The resolution comes in the midst of a complex reality of EU-China relations; views regarding China continue to harden as Beijing doubles down on threats and retaliation against the bloc, just as the Beijing Winter Olympics are scheduled to begin in just a few weeks’ time.


Human rights have long been a thorny issue in bilateral relations. But while in 2016 the EU committed to engaging China in a “principled, practical and pragmatic”, and in 2019 even labeled it a “systemic rival”, the EU has thus far failed to hold China accountable for its human rights violations, including for its crackdown on Hong Kong’s freedoms. In the meantime, China has become more assertive in deflecting international criticism of its ‘internal affairs’ and more willing to use economic coercion in order to achieve its goals.


Notwithstanding a growing convergence across the EU on the need to rethink its China policy and to increase its strategic capabilities, there is no unified EU-stance on China, as there is no shared approach to a diplomatic boycott of the Olympics. This has emboldened Beijing to use its clout inside the bloc to undermine democracy through influence operations and by weaponizing trade, seeking to ensure that the path the EU takes is favorable to the pursuit of its own national interests.


Against this backdrop, as one of the most vocal institutions of the EU regarding the respect of fundamental freedoms, the European Parliament has kept human rights on top of its own agenda. It has urged the European Commission and the European External Action Service, as well as member states not to shelve human rights to the benefit of trade with China. The EP has been the leading voice of a conceptual shift inside the EU towards more realism and less naïveté in its engagement of China, including expanding ties with Taiwan, shaping the EU’s willingness to pursue strategic interests.


As such, last May Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) voted in support of freezing the legislative process for ratifying the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) with China until Beijing lifts sanctions against MEPs. For the first time since the EU arms embargo in 1989 following the Tiananmen Square massacre, Brussels imposed sanctions against four Chinese officials for human rights abuses in Xinjiang, accusing them of “arbitrary detentions and degrading treatment inflicted upon Uyghurs and people from other Muslim ethnic minorities, as well as systematic violations of their freedom of religion or belief”.


Beijing responded with its own sanctions on European lawmakers, members of the EU’s Human Rights committee (DROI), the EU’s main foreign policy decision-making body and several think tanks in the EU, including Germany’s Mercator Institute for China Studies.


The resolution on Hong Kong “condemns in the strongest terms the fact that freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of the press are as severely restricted in Hong Kong as they are in China”. It reiterates solidarity with the people of Hong Kong, deplores the political persecution to which many journalists, who are now in exile or in jail, have been subjected, and “calls on China to ensure that all journalists can conduct their work freely and without impediments and fear of reprisals”.


The resolution further stresses that the National Security Law, which Beijing imposed in June 2020 bypassing the Hong Kong legislature, “prevents a relationship of trust between China and the EU” and undermines future cooperation as well as leads to a further erosion of Beijing’s credibility on the international stage. Beyond Hong Kong, the text condemns China’s coercion and intimidation against Lithuania and urges the EU to defend the basic principles of the Single Market. The EU is at present in the process of preparing a new anti-coercion instrument to reinforce its resilience by addressing its vulnerabilities so that it can better defend its interests, which is expected to take months.


In the plenary debate preceding the vote, Slovak MEP Miriam Lexmann (EPP), Co-Chair of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), said the resolution reflects strong cross-party consensus to stand with the people of Hong Kong, but “concrete action” must follow on an EU-level, including on Lithuania, as it faces China’s economic coercion. Lithuanian MEP Petras Auštrevičius (EPP) noted that the EU must take immediate and firm action to prevent the ongoing coercive policy against Lithuanian and international companies. “It is time to react”, he said.


In the words of German MEP Reinhard Bütikofer (Greens/EFA), Chair of the Delegation for relations with the People’s Republic of China, it is important that the EP remains a champion of the defence of democracy and human rights, calling on member states to join forces as China continues to show willingness to break international rules to pursue its hegemonic goals.


Supported by several colleagues, Belgian MEP Maria Arena (S&D), Chair of DROI, emphasized that there should be no diplomatic representation at the Beijing Olympics. “If we want to protect our friends in Hong Kong or brave Lithuania, we Europeans must more coherently and loudly stand up to Chinese aggression”, added Czech MEP Marketá Gregorová (Greens/EFA), who recently visited Taiwan as Coordinator of the EP’s Special Committee for foreign interference in all domestic processes in the EU, including disinformation (INGE).


On behalf of the EU High Representative Josep Borrell, Commissioner Stella Kyriakides condemned the National Security Law, saying China uses it to stifle the exercise of fundamental freedoms. While China claims the situation in Hong Kong is an internal matter, the EU rejects this, she said, adding that the EU will continue to stand by the people of Hong Kong.


Although the EP resolution is a legally non-binding document, it contributes to the European Parliament’s efforts to champion human rights in the world. It is now time for member states to finally get serious about China.



Zsuzsa Anna FERENCZY Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow, Ministry of Science and Technology of Taiwan

Non-resident Fellow, Taiwan Next Generation Foundation

Research Associate, Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Consultant on China, Taiwan, Korea at Human Rights Without Frontiers

Head of Associates Network, 9DASHLINE


twitter: @zsuzsettte

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