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New Hong Kong Catholic leader 'thorn in authorities' side'

Hong Kong's 230,000 Catholics have a new leader - an outspoken bishop who has clashed with both the mainland Chinese and Hong Kong governments over issues of religious freedom and social justice.

Bishop Joseph Zen, who was born on the mainland, has been banned from visiting there since 1998, apparently because he criticised the lack of religious freedom in China.

The church in Hong Kong announced that Zen would be appointed bishop of the diocese following the death Monday of Cardinal John Baptist Wu, 77, who had suffered from bone-marrow cancer and diabetes.

Zen has served as deputy to the ailing Wu, and the Vatican announced in 1996 that he would become the next leader.

Zen last year attacked Hong Kong's chief executive, Tung Chee-hwa, for describing the Falun Gong as an evil cult - the term used by Beijing. Zen warned that Christian groups could one day also be targeted.

In a Hong Kong newspaper interview published the day before Wu died, Zen warned about the territory losing freedoms, including religious freedom.

"We do not want to see Hong Kong becoming like any other city in the mainland," he said.


Bishop Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, S.D.B. (
Cardinal Kung Foundation

25 Sep 2002