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World News

New law could force Chinese priests to share secrets of the confession

by Premier Journalist

 

A new law could make Catholic priests in Hong Kong reveal what is said in the confessional, exposing thousands to trumped up charges of treason.   

 

Under Article 23 - new legislation passed in March this year -priests could face a 14-year jail sentence if they refuse to reveal what is said to them by members of their congregation.

 

The news comes as the country marks the 35 year anniversary of protests at Tiananmen Square when the People's Liberation Army cracked down on student protests calling for political liberalisation and greater respect for human rights.

 

An unknown number of people were killed.

 

Three decades on, many believe Christians there are no better off now than then.

 

Currently there are around 96.7 million Christians in China, though it accounts for less than seven per cent of China’s total population of around 1.5 billion.

 

The Chinese Communist Party's want churches to fall in line with its official viewpoints and they are encouraged to praise and pledge allegiance to the Communist Party and its ideology.

 

And according to the latest report by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) the state's crackdown on churches is getting worse as well as extending to Hong Kong.

 

 

 

According to USCIRF, the National Security Law, ‘has led to self-censorship among Hong Kong’s religious leaders and closures of some religious groups.’

 

 

Release International which serves the persecuted Church worldwide says while persecution remains less severe than on the mainland, religious freedom in Hong Kong is under growing threat.

 

 

Protestant pastor Garry Pang Moon-yuen was the first Hong Kong clergyman to be convicted under the recent National Security Law. He was jailed in 2022 after being accused of preaching sedition.

 

 

Release International partner Bob Fu, a former Tiananmen Square protestor said:

 

"For Catholics (the confessional)  is supposed to guarantee absolute confidentiality between the priest and the confessor. If priests are forced to violate that, China will go down a very dangerous path towards persecution."

 

Examples of persecution on the mainland include churches being demolished, crosses destroyed, pastors imprisoned, and the criminalisation of taking tithes re-labelled as financial fraud.

 

Many Christians have left Hong Kong for the UK to avoid the penalties, establishing new churches in the country.  One study by the British and Foreign Bible Society found the Chinese Church is now the fastest growing in Britain.

 

Despite that, partners of UK-based Release International want the British government to respond to the plight of Christians there and stand up for freedom of faith in its former colony.

 

Hong Kong became a British colony in 1842 and was ceded back to China in 1997.

 

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