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World News

Hong Kong: Beijing is suppressing religious freedom, says report

by Heather Preston

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is accused of seeking to control Hong Kong churches, according to a new report.

The study titled Hostile Takeover: The CCP and Hong Kong’s Religious Communities claims religious leaders are being pressured to promote CCP ideology.

According to the Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong (CFHK), the party is using its imposed National Security Law (NSL) to limit religious freedom.

“Sermons are expected to demand of churchgoers that they adhere to socialist values and accept national security enforcement,” CFHK says.

While not as severe as in mainland China - where religious symbols are destroyed and people are prevented from attending non-sanctioned churches, the CFHK has raised concerns over the deteriorating religious freedom on the Island, as religious leaders are pressured to align with CCP priorities.

Under the "One Country, Two Systems" arrangement, Hong Kong is guaranteed “a high degree of autonomy” for 50 years which should allow HongKongers religious freedom. The report, authored by Hong Kong activist Frances Hui states that "these promises are being systematically broken as part of an orchestrated CCP takeover of Hong Kong’s religious sphere."

Hui highlights numerous CCP initiatives contributing to these concerns including the politicising of religious organisations, orders for Catholic churches to teach on the sinicization of religion and changes to educational material.

The report adds: "The Catholic church in Hong Kong is proactively suppressing information on religious persecution in China and has diluted its focus on advocating the rights of the faithful in China.

"The Hong Kong diocese removed a Hong Kong priest’s TV interview about religious persecution in China and deteriorations of religious freedom in Hong Kong from its online sites."

It reports that churches in Hong Kong are being censored while believers increasingly face attacks and legal prosecution for promoting their faith.

"The CCP — in conjunction with Hong Kong lawmakers, some religious organizations, and state-controlled media — is pressing for the establishment of a mainland-style oversight body on religion to control religious beliefs and practices for believers of all faiths."

CFHK is calling on the U.S. and other democracies to hold Hong Kong accountable, advocate for the release of religious prisoners, and monitor the situation. It also urges the Vatican and other religious leaders to speak up for religious prisoners and ensure their faith is not compromised for the sake of the CCP’s political agenda.

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