The federation of Asian Bishops conferences has condemned China’s imposition of a new security law in Hong Kong, arguing that it “destroys” the city’s autonomy.
Cardinal Bo, Archbishop of Yangon in Myanmar, and president of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences, issued a statement on 1 July 2020, condemning the new law and calling for Christians to pray for the people of Hong Kong and China.
The new National Security Law, introduced by the Chinese government on 30 June, introduces new crimes with severe penalties, such as life imprisonment, and allows security personnel from the Chinese mainland to operate in Hong Kong without oversight or restriction from the local government.
Some critics have claimed that the unprecedented expansion of central government powers over Hong Kong means that the city’s relative autonomy from the mainland has been effectively abolished. The law’s significant penalties for crimes such as “subversion” has led many Hong Kong residents to see it as an attack on human rights and democracy activists in the city.
In his statement, Cardinal Bo attacked the law as “destroying” the region’s “healthy mix of creativity and freedom”. He added that the new law was “offensive to the spirit and letter of the 1997 handover agreement.”
The handover agreement, signed by the governments of the United Kingdom and of China when Hong Kong ceased to be a British possession, guaranteed for “at least 50 years” the city-state’s right to a democratic government and relative political autonomy from the mainland. The UK government has argued that the new security law violates the 1997 agreement, ending the “two systems, one country” model proposed in the document.
Cardinal Bo also raised concerns about freedom of religion in Hong Kong, requesting assurances that priests and pastors will not be “criminalised” for the content of their homilies or preaching.
He described the situation for freedom of religion in Mainland China as “suffering the most severe restrictions experienced since the Cultural Revolution”. Pointing out that freedom of belief is guaranteed in Hong Kong’s “basic articles”, the Cardinal warned that “wherever freedom as a whole is undermined, freedom of religion or belief – sooner or later – is affected.”
Cardinal Bo closed his statement by requesting that Christians, “in the spirit of the prophets, martyrs and saints of our faith”, pray for preservation of human rights in Hong Kong, the people of Hong Kong, and the people of China.