China asked to release church prisoners to mark 60th anniversary

China asked to release church prisoners to mark 60th anniversary

By Ecumenical News International
6 Oct 2009

A Roman Catholic cardinal in Hong Kong and the bishop who succeeded him have called on the Chinese government to release imprisoned church leaders to mark the 60th anniversary of the creation of the Peoples' Republic of China - writes Francis Wong.

"It is the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. The time has come for its leaders to be courageous and to correct its wrongdoings by releasing church leaders who were deprived of their freedom," said Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong.

Cardinal Zen made his comments in an article in the Catholic Weekly newspaper in Hong Kong on 27 September 2009. He wrote, "This is the time for [government] leaders to step down from their high places and directly engage our bishops in dialogue because they are the real heads of the Church."

China has prepared large-scale celebrations for its anniversary on 1 October.

Bishop John Tong Hon, who succeeded Cardinal Zen as the head of the Catholic Church in Hong Kong, has echoed his predecessor's concerns. Hon made his call to the Chinese authorities to release detained clergy before he headed to Beijing to join the national day celebrations from 30 September to 2 October.

Along with Tong, religious leaders from the Anglican Communion, Islam and Taoism will be among the Hong Kong dignitaries at the celebrations in the Chinese capital.

Still, Bishop Tong was not present when Hong Kong religious leaders hosted a local national day celebration on 22 September, which leaders from a group called the Colloquium of Six Religious Leaders attended. Those represented were Protestant Christians, Muslims, Taoists, Buddhists and Confucians.

At the celebration, Anglican Bishop Thomas Soo said he was, "joyful to note that China aims at building up a harmonious society and placing religious issues as a high priority". Soo is the chairperson of the Hong Kong Christian Council, and was on the organizing committee of the 22 September celebration.

The Anglican bishop said there had been many changes in China over the past 60 years, and many would recognise the country's significant progress.

[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]

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