Clergy based in Hong Kong who have been critical of the Chinese government may face arrest and extradition under the controversial new security laws.
The new laws, which have been heavily protested across Hong Kong, may well be formally approved by China's lawmaking body — the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress — by the end of June. The legislation was submitted on Thursday for deliberation and covers four categories of crimes: succession, subversion of state power, local terrorist activities and collaborating with foreign or external foreign forces to endanger national security.
Under the law, clergy who have lent support to the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong could find themselves being designated as a threat to the Chinese communist state and its territorial goals. The new laws may subsequently allow for them to be extradited and tried in China on charges relating to the subversion of state power or collaborating with foreign forces. The new laws mean that outspoken religious leaders such as Cardinal Joseph Zen and Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing could be under threat from the Chinese.
Last month, Cardinal Zen said that the Vatican had "surrendered the Church to the Chinese authority" by staying silent on the Hong Kong situation. The former Bishop of Hong Kong went on to accuse the Vatican of “always trying to please the Chinese government” before warning that this was a “foolish” policy “because the Communists, they never grant anything, they just want to control".
Regarding the new laws and their threat to clergy, International Christian Concern added that "hundreds of protestant leaders or Christian organisations who have actively spoken out against the Hong Kong government might face the same fate, since Beijing has said it considers the mass protests that began last June as terrorist acts and any calls for Hong Kong’s independence from China as acts of sedition".
The persecution watchdog added: "China’s notorious legal system and its lack of transparency can easily criminalise anybody and place them in jail. Many Chinese pastors and Christians, such as pastor Wang Yi, elder Qin Derfu, pastor John Cao, are now imprisoned for trumped-up charges, such as 'subversion of state power', 'illegal border crossing,' and 'illegal business operation'.
"Many fear with the passing of this legislation, Hong Kong will forever lose the “One Country, Two Systems” status and merely turn itself into an ordinary coastal city in China."