The Bishop of Southwark says he's outraged at the arrest of a 90 year old Cardinal in Hong Kong under China's strict national security law.
Joseph Zen, who is one of Asia's most outspoken clerics, was arrested earlier this week for being a trustee of a fund that supported pro-democracy protestors in 2019.
Three other trustees, actor Denise Ho, lawyer Margaret Ng, and scholar Hui Po-keung, were also arrested.
Cardinal Zen has now been released on bail but Right Rev Christopher Chessun described his arrest as 'utterly unacceptable.' Speaking in the House of Lords he called for interventions to be made to protect religious freedom and belief in Hong Kong:
"My Lords, given that the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund did little more than fund legal aid for protesters from the 2019 pro-democracy movement and closed its operations in 2021, is it not an outrage that one of those arrested, along with other trustees - should be 90 year-old Cardinal Joseph Zen? With Cardinal Zen being, as the noble Lord, Lord Patten, has said, "one of the most important figures in the Catholic Church in Asia.
"I ask the Minister to state in his own words, as clearly as possible, that this is utterly unacceptable and further undermines the rule of law in Hong Kong. What interventions have been and will be made to protect religious freedom or belief in the territory?"
In reply, Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park said China was in clear breach of a declaration on freedom of religion or belief :
"What has happened to Cardinal Zen is truly appalling on every conceivable level. It fundamentally undermines every aspect of the agreement we reached with China at the handover and any sense of plurality or freedom of religion in Hong Kong
Freedom of expression, religion or belief is explicitly included in the joint declaration, which China agreed to uphold. China is in clear breach of that declaration. We have seen its use of the national security law to curtail freedoms and suppress any dissent."
Cardinal Zen is a former Bishop of Hong Kong has long been a critic of the government in Beijing, speaking out for more democracy in Hong Kong.
Human rights activists described his arrest as a shocking new low for Hong Kong, with the Vatican expressing concern and saying it was watching events closely.
Leading human rights campaigner and co-founder of Hong Kong Watch, Benedict Rogers gave Premier his reaction:
"I am deeply concerned. Hong Kong basically has gone very, very rapidly in the last couple of years from being one of Asia's most open cities, to basically being one of its most repressive police states. Ultimately, it's the regime in Beijing that is driving all of this. Beijing imposed a very draconian National Security Law, which basically resulted in the dismantling of all of Hong Kong's freedoms."
Fiona Bruce, the Prime Minister's Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief tweeted that she was 'deeply concerned' over the arrest of Cardinal Zen.