- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Beijing is flexing its intimidation muscles in the wake of a new national security law by arresting nuns who serve Hong Kong’s 400,000 Catholics.

Multiple sources, all but one who chose to remain anonymous out of fear for their safety, spoke to Reuters of the previously undisclosed house arrests in May.

The women were detained during a visit home to Hebei province, yet never charged with an actual crime.

“It is highly unusual for nuns to be detained,” one cleric told Reuters for the exclusive published Wednesday. “Normally they are left alone.”

“We are at the bottom of the pit — there is no freedom of expression anymore,” the former Bishop of Hong Kong, 88-year-old Cardinal Joseph Zen, said in a written statement. “All these things are normal in mainland China. We are becoming like any other city in China. … For any word you say, [Beijing] can say you’re offending the National Security Law.”

Senior members of the clergy said the arrests are likely an effort to influence who will become the city’s next bishop since the position has not been filled for two years.

The Liaison Office, the main arm of the Chinese government in Hong Kong, didn’t respond to questions for Reuter’s article.

Inquiries as to the nuns’ status were ignored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing.

A Vatican spokesman and the acting head of the local church, Cardinal John Tong, also declined to comment for Reuters’ story.

• Douglas Ernst can be reached at dernst@washingtontimes.com.

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