Hong Kong, Religious Freedom and Catholic Responsibility

July 10, 2020

In an article published recently in National Catholic Register, Thomas Farr, president of the Religious Freedom Institute, writes, “On June 30, China’s draconian ‘security law’ went into effect in Hong Kong. The law represents a dramatic escalation of Beijing’s assault on the island’s autonomy and its freedoms, including those of Catholics.”

Farr continues:

The Hong Kong law criminalizes “secession, subversion, organization and perpetration of terrorist activities, and collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security.” Those arrested can be sent to China for trial, where legal protections are virtually non-existent. Scarcely a week after the law’s imposition, hundreds of dissidents have already been arrested.

Beijing aims to “diminish, if not eliminate” the threat that democracy in Hong Kong poses to the “consolidation and expansion of Chinese power,” which Beijing cannot accomplish without removing “religion and its protector, religious freedom” from Hong Kong. Chinese President Xi Jinping has demonstrated with “terrifying efficiency” his willingness and capacity to repress religious freedom in his country.

This latest move by China should be understood within a history going back more than 50 years, which Farr outlines in some detail. Mao Zedong attempted in the first Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) to “kill religion” in China. He failed. However, Xi Jinping, who became China’s president in 2013, has pursued a second Cultural Revolution. Farr characterizes Xi’s policies as suggesting a “stark conclusion: Even if you can’t kill religion, you can control it with a combination of law and terror.”

“[T]here is little reason to believe,” Farr argues, “that China’s domestic model of religion control will not be applied in Hong Kong. If Xi’s policy is to succeed, he cannot afford to permit religious freedom to survive in Hong Kong.”

Read the full article: Hong Kong, Religious Freedom and Catholic Responsibility