It has been reported today that the 90 year old Cardinal Joseph Zen has been arrested by Chinese security forces in Hong Kong. The immediate cause for his detention, along with singer Denise Ho, Dr, Hui Po Keung, opposition politicians Cyd Ho and Margaret Ng, is apparently due to their being trustees of the legal defence fund for pro-democracy detainees.
The charges apparently claim that the four were acting in collusion with “foreign forces” which is one of the sweeping categories of crime that are part of the 2020 National Security Law. This legislation allows all forms of opposition to be suppressed as sedition and collusion.
There is no report on the arrests in the Communist Party’s People’s Daily which instead carries an effusive story about the election of the new Hong Kong Chief Executive, which follows the Party controlled elections and marks a triumph over the “anti-China agitators who had wormed their way into the HKSAR’s governance structure through elections.” They mean actual open elections.
Zen fled China following the Communist takeover in 1949 but did return to China as a lecturer in the late 1980s before being appointed Bishop of Hong Kong in 1996 by Pope John Paul II. His resignation was accepted in 2009. This was regarded by some as allowing the Vatican to form closer relations with Beijing. However, his appointment by Pope Benedict as Cardinal in 2006 was seen as a symbol of support for Zen and the underground church and indeed other Chinese dissenters in their opposition to the Communists.
In 2014, he publicly called on Pope Francis not to visit China as it would be manipulated by the Communist Party to show acceptance of the state controlled registered clergy. The Party had congratulated Francis on his election in 2013. In September 2014, he spoke at a protest in Hong Kong that was dispersed by police using tear gas.
Of the Vatican rapprochement with the CCP, Zen had bluntly stated that “Pope Francis does not know the real Communist Party in China.” He later accused the Vatican foreign service of ignoring reports of repression and wondered “from what planet” the Pope’s advisors had descended from.
As Zen and others have pointed out, the refusal of the Vatican to openly condemn the Chinese state on the basis that it “would serve no useful purpose” is simply moral cowardice. No such moral equivocation was shown by John Paul II ins his unswerving opposition to Communism in his own country and elsewhere. And none by Pius XI in his condemnation of Nazi racial doctrine and state idolatry in Mit brennender Sorge.
Zen knows what opponents of Communist totalitarianism have learned through decades of terror – there can be no quarter given. To do so invites greater abuses.
Hopefully, our own Government with its well-advertised concern for human rights will join those calling publicly for the release of Zen and the other detainees. Silence will be taken as approval and that silence has surrounded millions of earlier victims of the monster.