Signs that the CCP’s religious overseers are gearing up to exert influence over religious believers in Hong Kong

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Hong Kong protestor waves the American flag, 2019
(Photo: Flickr)

(Hong Kong—January 11, 2022) According to four Catholic clerics, at a meeting on October 31, coordinated by the Chinese Liaison Office to Hong Kong, Chinese bishops and religious leaders from mainland China briefed chairman Xi Jinping’s vision to advance “religion with Chinese characteristics.” New signs indicate that the Beijing regime’s religious overseers are gearing up to extend its influence to Hong Kong.


Reports from Reuters revealed that clerics with knowledge of the meeting described the Oct. 31 meeting as an attempt by Beijing to influence Hong Kong’s diocese, which has long been loyal to the Vatican. While Hong Kong Catholic leaders have met individually with mainland leaders in the past, this is the first formal meeting between the two sides — and the first time mainland religious officials have encouraged such a meeting, one cleric said.


Previously, Beijing remained relatively silent on religious affairs in Hong Kong. However, the recent meeting indicated that the Beijing regime is about to invade Hong Kong’s religious freedoms.


Officials from the Chinese liaison office in Hong Kong and the State Administration for Religious Affairs oversaw the one-day Zoom meeting. Three prominent bishops and fifteen religious figures from the official Catholic Church in mainland China met with fifteen senior clergy members from Hong Kong.


Susanne Ho, a spokeswoman for the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong, told Reuters the diocese “does not disclose details of private meetings.”


During the meeting, speakers from China advocated further “sinicization” of religion to Hong Kong participants.


Xi Jinping has been an active advocate of “sinicization,” formulating policies that promote religion with what he labels “Chinese characteristics” and forge closer ties with the Party and State. It includes linking religion more closely with Chinese culture, patriotism, and the goals of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in an attempt to realize Xi Jinping’s “Chinese Dream.”


“Sinicization” is undoubtedly a crafty word. In its implementation, it is the “communization” of religion. As is the case, the CCP implements a party-state system, and the Party’s will to power overrides the State. Their political will dominates the entire nation’s ideology. Xi’s advocacy for religious sinicization is a cover-up for invading religious freedoms. The CCP’s approach is different from the Chinese Church’s understanding of inculturation, indigenization, and acculturation.


This is Beijing’s blatant policy of imposing a hybrid political ideology of the CCP on religious groups, with party-state politics being incorporated into religious prerequisites.


Now, the CCP is now trying to sell this policy to Catholics in Hong Kong, ostensibly in line with the Catholics’ inculturation, therefore the Catholic community has to remain on high alert because the CCP will regulate religion in an authoritarian way.


"This was just the first step and I felt they knew that they could not come into this too heavy or dogmatically," said one cleric to Reuters.


We all know there is a political agenda behind the word “sinicization” and they don't have to elaborate on that.


“Xi was the elephant in the room,” the second cleric said.


The two clergymen said Hong Kong has spoken extensively about its long-standing policy of cultural integration, avoiding any political offense and any topics that might provoke interference from the mainland.


Some of Hong Kong’s government and business elites are Catholics and pro-Beijing, including Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, but other Catholics have long been active in the democratic movement which has been Beijing’s concern.


Speaking at a national religious conference in Beijing earlier this month, Xi Jinping demanded that all religions in China need to embrace the Communist Party, extending his long-standing policy.


“We must adhere to the party’s basic direction in religious work, we must continue the direction of sinicizing religion in our country, and we must continue to absorb a large number of religious believers and unite around the party and the government," Xi Jinping said.


Xi’s forementioned remarks now also pose a threat of invasion to the church community in semi-autonomous Hong Kong. The United Kingdom handed over its colony to China in 1997, and the Hong Kong Basic Law clearly guarantees freedom of conscience and broad freedom of religion, including the right to preach in public. Hong Kong retains broad religious freedoms and traditions, as well as the rule of law, which is the “one country, two systems” model that the UK has consistently adhered to.


The church in Hong Kong operates essentially on pre-1997 lines, and the Catholic Church maintains close ties with the Vatican and has hosted many foreign missionaries throughout the years.


Chinese and Hong Kong officials have repeatedly said the city’s broad freedoms, including those of religious belief and affiliation, remain intact. However, with the implementation of Hong Kong’s version of the National Security Law, everyone in the region is in danger. Hong Kong has arrested a large number of pro-democracy activists. Xi Jinping repeatedly refers to “patriots governing Hong Kong,” patriots that have wholly succumbed to Beijing’s will to power. Anyone with reservations or disagreements with the Beijing regime will be subject to criminal charges.


There is no doubt that the fundamental rights of Hong Kong citizens have been severely eroded. This is the direct result of Beijing’s treachery.


The October 31st meeting did not determine when the next one will be held. However, it is an indication that Beijing’s ambition to promote political unity with Hong Kong will continue to deteriorate the self-government status of Hong Kong. It will become increasingly harder to escape China’s authoritarian policies. At the heart of the talks are Beijing’s interests in the continued unification of China under Xi Jinping, leading many to suspect that religious freedom in Hong Kong will become a growing target of the Communist Party as it has in the mainland.


Xi Jinping is increasingly enjoying his “Chinese Dream,” and his advocacy of the so-called “Sinicization” of religion and related policy formulation and implementation is just one tactical tool to satisfy his dream of power. His amendment of the law to clear the way for his lifelong leadership of the Communist Party is an indication of that.


~Gao Zhensai, Special Correspondent of ChinaAid Association

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