Asian Bishops’ Conferences concerned about new Hong Kong law

The Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences is concerned about China’s new security law in Hong Kong.

In a statement, Cardinal Maung Bo, Archbishop of Yangon in Myanmar and president of the Asian Bishops’ Conferences says the bishops are calling for Christians to pray for the people of Hong Kong and China.

China’s President Xi Jinping has signed into law a controversial national security legislation that aims to safeguard security in the special administrative region of Hong Kong.

Beijing says the law, which came into effect on 1 July, is necessary to deal with separatism and foreign interference.

“We hope the law will serve as a deterrent to prevent people from stirring up trouble,” said Tam Yiu-Chung, Hong Kong’s sole representative on the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, which approved the law.

It introduces new crimes with severe penalties, such as life imprisonment. It also allows security personnel from the Chinese mainland to operate in Hong Kong without local government oversight or restriction.

Critics say it will outlaw dissent and destroy the autonomy promised when the territory was returned to China in 1997.

In his statement, Bo attacked the law as “destroying” the region’s “healthy mix of creativity and freedom.” He rated the new law as “offensive to the spirit and letter of the 1997 handover agreement.”

The handover agreement, signed by the governments of the United Kingdom and of China when Hong Kong ceased to be a British possession in 1997, guaranteed for “at least 50 years” the city-state’s right to a democratic government and relative political autonomy from the mainland.

The UK government says the new security law violates the 1997 agreement, ending its “two systems, one country” model.

Bo is also concerned about freedom of religion in Hong Kong, and wants assurances that priests and pastors will not be “criminalised” for the content of their homilies or preaching.

The situation for freedom of religion in Mainland China is “suffering the most severe restrictions experienced since the Cultural Revolution,” Bo says.

Given that freedom of belief is guaranteed in Hong Kong’s basic articles, “wherever freedom as a whole is undermined, freedom of religion or belief – sooner or later – is affected,” his statement says.

Cardinal Bo statement closes with a request for Christians, “in the spirit of the prophets, martyrs and saints of our faith”, to pray for preservation of human rights in Hong Kong, the people of Hong Kong, and the people of China.


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