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Hong Kong diocese ‘extremely concerned’ about ‘Cardinal Joseph Zen’s incident’

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The Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong said in a statement on Thursday that it was “extremely concerned” about “Cardinal Joseph Zen’s incident.”

“We have always upheld the rule of law. We trust that in the future we will continue enjoying religious freedom in Hong Kong under the Basic Law,” the statement said.

“We urge the Hong Kong Police and the judicial authorities to handle Cardinal Zen’s case in accordance with justice, taking into consideration our concrete human situation.”

The message concluded with a quote from Psalm 23: “As Christians, it is our firm belief that: ‘The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.’”

The statement, published on May 12, was not signed by Bishop Stephen Chow, the current bishop of Hong Kong.

Within minutes of the statement’s release, several people in Hong Kong expressed concern about its language.

Hong Kong-based writer Rachel Cheung questioned the use of the phrase “in accordance with justice,” adding: “because the laws are …”

Antony Dapiran, the author of “City on Fire: The Fight for Hong Kong,” highlighted the diocese’s use of the word “incident” in the title of its statement.

Cindy Wan, who is originally from Hong Kong, said: “Doesn’t sound like criticism. Any outrage? Condemnation?”

Zen, the former bishop of Hong Kong, was arrested on May 11 and released on bail hours later from Chai Wan Police Station on Hong Kong island.

Zen is believed to have been detained in his role as a trustee of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, which helped pro-democracy protesters to pay their legal fees.

The 90-year-old, who served as Hong Kong’s Catholic bishop from 2002 to 2009, is an outspoken supporter of the pro-democracy movement.

In 2020, a sweeping National Security Law came into force, criminalizing previously protected civil liberties under the headings of “sedition“ and “foreign collusion.”

Reuters reported that Zen and four others — Canadian-Hong Kong pop star Denise Ho, academic Hui Po Keung, and former opposition lawmakers Margaret Ng and Cyd Ho — were arrested for alleged “collusion with foreign forces.”

Earlier this week, former security chief John Lee, a baptized Catholic, was named as Hong Kong’s next chief executive. Lee succeeds Carrie Lam, also a Catholic, who held the post since 2017.

The Vatican issued a brief statement on May 11 expressing concern at the reports of Zen’s arrest.

“The Holy See has learned with concern the news of the arrest of Cardinal Zen and is following the development of the situation with extreme attention,” the Holy See press office said.

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Hong Kong diocese ‘extremely concerned’ about ‘Cardinal Joseph Zen’s incident’