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New Hong Kong church leader warns on anti-subversion law

Hong Kong's new and outspoken Catholic leader says an anti-subversion law proposed by the territory's government is frightening as it possibly could be used against the church, which supports underground Catholic groups outlawed in mainland China.

"I'm pretty scared," Bishop Joseph Zen said in an interview with a Hong Kong cable television station last week.

The planned legislation calls on Hong Kong to ban groups linked to organisations on the mainland that are considered threats to Chinese national security.

"What if the mainland government says the Catholic Church is a threat to the nation? Even if they don't investigate further, we will admit we belong to the same church as underground (Catholic) churches in China," Zen told Cable TV in the Thursday evening interview posted on Cable TV's Web site.

China does not recognise the Vatican and allows its Catholics only to worship at state-sanctioned churches. However, scholars estimate that half the mainland's 12 million Catholics attend unofficial underground churches that are loyal to the Pope.

The government made its proposal for such a law public last week. Although officials say the law would be rarely used, critics fear it might be used to clamp down on opinions unpopular with China.

Zen, who replaced Cardinal John Baptist Wu after Wu's death last month, has long been a critic of Beijing.


HK bishop accused of provoking unrest (Straits Times)
Cardinal Sepe offers goodwill toward China at Cardinal Wu's funeral (3/10/02)
New Hong Kong Catholic leader 'thorn in authorities' side' (25/9/02)

8 Oct 2002