- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 18, 2003

HONG KONG Hong Kong's Roman Catholic bishop accused mainland China yesterday of tightening repressive controls on Catholics, a move he said could affect church followers in Hong Kong if a proposed anti-subversion law is enacted there.
Bishop Joseph Zen, an outspoken critic of the governments in Beijing and Hong Kong, said a section of the proposed law could be used to suppress Hong Kong groups deemed to be "subordinate" to organizations banned in the mainland because they are judged to be a threat to national security.
He fears the law could be used against Hong Kong's Roman Catholic Church because of its ties to underground Catholic churches in the mainland.
"That's very bad for us," said Bishop Zen, who was born in Shanghai but has been barred from the mainland since 1998.
Bishop Zen, speaking during an appearance at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Hong Kong, said that although the number of officially sanctioned mainland Catholic churches was rising, the Chinese government was "using ever more repressive measures" to exert control. He asserted that Catholic seminaries in China have been denied the right to invite visiting scholars to teach.
"Obviously if you compare the church today with 20 years ago, there's been big progress. The church is open, and new churches are being built," Bishop Zen said. But, he said, "Sometimes it's one step forward, two steps back."
China's Catholic hierarchy fled to Taiwan in 1951, two years after the Nationalist government led by Chiang Kai-shek retreated there after a civil war on the mainland. The Vatican has yet to establish ties with the communist government in Beijing.
The 347,000 Roman Catholics living in Hong Kong can worship freely under an autonomy arrangement devised when this former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997. Catholics and other Christians in mainland China are required to attend churches sanctioned by the state, although scholars estimate that roughly half the 12 million Chinese Catholics worship in underground churches loyal to the Vatican, risking arrest. Church leaders sometimes have been imprisoned for years.

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