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CHINA-HONGKONG-CARRIE LAM CREDIT REUTERS HEADER.JPG
Reuters
CHINA-HONGKONG-CARRIE LAM CREDIT REUTERS.JPG
Reuters
World News

Pope and Justin Welby condemned for silence over Hong Kong democracy clampdowns

by Heather Preston

Both the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury have come under fire for not doing more to defend democracy and freedom in Hong Kong.

A Christian human rights campaigner has urged the religious leaders to speak out against the recent clampdowns in the country.

In the last week, two independent news outlets (Stand News and Citizen News) have closed in the former British territory and a pro-democracy activist has been jailed. 

Benedict Rogers, the founder and CEO of Hong Kong Watch told Premier that China's increasing influence there is a concern.

"Press freedom in Hong Kong now is dead.

"These latest closures really are the final nail in the coffin. And in terms of other freedoms, they have been dismantled in recent years. 

"So Hong Kong has gone from being one of the most open, freest cities in Asia to one of the most repressive."

In June 2020, Beijing implemented a sweeping National Security Law in the city, following the 2019 pro-democracy protests. 

Since the security law came into effect, over a hundred people have been arrested, including many pro-democracy activists as well as some journalists who previously worked for the now-defunct news outlets Apple Daily and Stand News.

Rogers says Beijing has "flagrantly breached" its international treaty with the United Kingdom for Hong Kong to maintain its human rights laws and a high degree of autonomy in recent years and has questioned the inaction of the international community to hold it accountable.

"We [the UK] have an obligation, just as China has an obligation under the treaty to uphold its promises of freedom and Hong Kong's autonomy.

"I think for too long, the early warning signs were there, even before the last couple of years of real clamp down, and we failed to respond to those warning signs. 

"Apart from a scheme to allow Hong Kongers the right of abode in the UK, which is very welcome, there's been really no action from the UK."

Rogers went on to express his disappointment that religious leaders such as Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury have yet to speaking out on the issue, as he fears limits to religious freedom could be next in line.

"The Pope has been noticeably silent both on Hong Kong and other issues related to China. I think that is largely because the Vatican signed an agreement with China over the appointment of Bishops a couple of years ago, and that I'm sad to say appears to have effectively bought the Pope's silence.

"The Archbishop of Canterbury doesn't have any such agreement with China but he has as far as I'm aware, not said anything and I would really urge both of them and other Christian leaders to at least express prayer for Hong Kong and for China and to speak up because religious freedom in Hong Kong is probably the next freedom to be targeted."

In response to the recent press outlet closures, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam stated that they did not reflect the state of press freedom in the city as the decisions were made by the outlets themselves.

She added that Hong Kong authorities do "not seek to crack down on press freedom".

"As long as news outlets do not engage in illegal acts, they can continue to report news in Hong Kong," she stated.
 

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