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The European Parliament calls on the Hong Kong authorities to drop the charges against Cardinal Zen

Published: 12.07.2022

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· The European Parliament adopted a resolution condemning the arrest of Cardinal Joseph Zen and calling on the Hong Kong authorities to drop all charges against him and other detained activists.

· A 90-year-old clergyman named "Hong Kong's conscience" was arrested on May 11, along with four other people from the "612 Humanitarian Relief Fund," established to financially support pro-democracy activists pursued by city officials.

· The charges against him are that he colludes with foreign forces under a controversial National Security Act imposed on the city of Hong Kong by the Chinese regime.

· Cardinal's bail leaves the case against him open and raises serious questions about the future of human rights and religious freedom in China.

The arrest of Cardinal Zen and the other four people working for the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund drew the attention of some MEPs who introduced the subject of respect for human rights in China to a debate during a plenary session of the European Parliament. The discussion ended with the adoption of the fifth resolution in two years on the deterioration of the human rights situation in China.

The debate started with the tabling of five motions for resolutions to condemn the unfair repression of Hong Kong's political dissidents and to ask the local government to immediately drop all charges against 90-year-old Cardinal Zen. Some MEPs not only saw Cardinal Zen's arrest as an attack on democracy and the rule of law, but above all on religious freedom, shedding light on the true nature of the communist regime and an attempt by the Chinese authorities to silence the cardinal and the Church with him. "When you want to punish someone, there is always an excuse," Czech MEP Michaela Šojdrová told the EP plenary session.

Deputy Anna Fotyga recalled that: "the arrest and charges against the great authority of the 90-year-old Cardinal Zen shows how brutal this regime can be [...]. We urge the international community to use all possible means to put pressure on China to drop the charges against Cardinal Zen and other Hong Kongers who just want to live in peace. [...] This fact reminds me of the faith and courageous behavior of the Polish Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński. This is the fate of spiritual leaders, but we must defend them with all our strength. "

On the other hand, MEP Joachim Kuhs from Germany drew attention to the contradiction according to which: "We condemn China's attitude towards Card. Zen, but Parliament and the Commission must take a clear stance against the persecution of Christians. We use strong words when we talk about abortion, but in China, India, North Korea, and Muslim countries there are Christians who are persecuted and we say nothing. Rather, we have trade agreements with these countries. We need clarity, our silence serves as an encouragement to the mighty of this world to continue their repression. We must act not only to help Cardinal Zen, but millions of citizens to fight for their freedom of religion. "

Ultimately, the adopted resolution called on the Commission and Member States to review the EU-Hong Kong / China Agreement on Cooperation and Mutual Administrative Assistance in Customs Matters, the status of Hong Kong's Economic and Trade Bureau in Brussels, and Hong Kong's place in the World Trade Organization. They also called on the Vatican to strengthen its diplomatic efforts and exert influence over the Chinese authorities.

"Despite the debate occurred within the European Parliament on the arrest of the Cardinal Zen and the ongoing deterioration of human rights in the independent region of Honk Kong has marked a further step towards the realisation that the communist regime – wherever it is established – may change its form, but not its attitude towards Christians who oppose the deprivation of fundamental freedoms, the Resolution adopted last week is not binding among Member States and as such can be reduced to a mere declaration of intent without any practical effect. The risk in this case is that of considering the duty to protect human rights in the international arena fulfilled simply by denouncing political oppression affecting millions of Christian citizens, without then taking effective measures to support them. Taking practical measures against the violation of fundamental rights is even more necessary considering that China is a member of the Human Rights Council. From this perspective, it is therefore necessary to continue monitoring the activities of the European Institutions so that they effectively follow up on the measures proposed in the Resolution and mark a step forward in the defence of freedom of religion and expression," underlined Veronica Turetta, analyst at the Ordo Iuris Center for International Law.



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