RFI’s Paul Marshall Discusses Religious Freedom in China


Paul Marshall, Director of RFI’s South and Southeast Asia Action Team, was recently interviewed on EWTN News in Depth to discuss current events in China relating to religious freedom. In particular, he discussed the recent violent protests at the Foxconn iPhone plant, the trials of activist Jimmy Lai and Cardinal Zen, and the Vatican agreement with China on the joint appointment of bishops. Marshall lamented that there has been little public outcry surrounding these issues from the international community, as well as from the Church.

Regarding the protests happening in China, Marshall said:

What is unique about the protests is that there are in fact protests. China is so clamped down – it has the social credits system, monitors everything you do. So with the system of control, any demonstration of opposition to the government has been almost impossible. So the fact that it’s taking place is itself significant. 

Commenting on the evolving situation for prisoner Jimmy Lai, Marshall explained that it is illustrative of China’s overall agenda of repression and control, drawing a comparison to the situation for Cardinal Zen. He stated:

What the Chinese government is seeking to do is repress everybody, and the policies it follows in the mainland it’s now applying in Hong Kong. But in the main, it’s trying to do it slowly; it’s avoiding shooting people or sending them off to labor camps for life, but slowly increasing restrictions, as with Cardinal Zen. He was convicted only of a very minor offense and had a fine for that, but that’s a warning – he’s being investigated for national security. It’s being said to Zen now, “shut up, or something worse will happen.” And similarly with Jimmy Lai, I think they’ll try something soft at first, but if he doesn’t shut up, they ll keep pushing until he’s spending years in prison. They’re simply not brooking any resistance or any freedom.

When asked if the Vatican has any real sway with the Chinese government, Marshall argued he does not believe that the Vatican has many means to pressure them. However, he said that the Vatican should seek as much as possible to preserve the independence of the Catholic Church in the country.

Watch the full interview: Expert Analysis on Religious Freedom in China | EWTN News In Depth December 2, 2022.