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China drops ban on outspoken Hong Kong bishop


China invited the head of Hong Kong's Catholic church to return to his hometown of Shanghai last week, lifting a six-year ban on one of Beijing's most outspoken critics.

Bishop Joseph Zen, who was barred from the mainland in 1998, met with government officials and Shanghai's Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian during a three-day trip that ended on Friday, the South China Morning Post reported.

The report did not say what was discussed during the meetings. Zen confirmed the Post report Tuesday, but declined further comment.

He also visited a seminary where he once taught and visited his brother-in-law's grave with his 80-year-old sister, the report said.

Beijing doesn't recognise the Vatican and Christians on the mainland are only allowed to worship at state-sanctioned churches. Zen is a vocal critic of China's suppression of underground churches loyal to the Vatican, which scholars have estimated serve about half of at least 12 million faithful in the country.

Although Hong Kong's Catholic diocese is loyal to the pope, China allows the territory's 300,000 followers to practice their faith freely in a special arrangement that preserves Western-style freedoms introduced when Hong Kong was under British rule.

Zen was among the leading opponents of an anti-subversion bill that China wanted passed but that the government - faced with overwhelming public pressure - was forced to drop last year. He warned that the bill could allow the persecution of Hong Kong's faithful because of their ties to illegal mainland churches.

SOURCE
China drops ban on outspoken bishop Zen (AsiaNews.it 4/5/04)

LINKS
Bishop Zen's trip to Shanghai dictated by China's fears (AsiaNews.it 4/5/04)
HK Catholic leader visits China (BBC 4/5/04)
Professor blasts China's 'Nazi tactics' (The Age 5/5/04)
Ban Dropped on Outspoken Hong Kong Leader (The Guardian/Associated Press 4/5/04)
China lifts ban on Hong Kong bishop (Catholic World News 4/5/04)
Ban Dropped on Outspoken Hong Kong Leader (Associated Press/Yahoo 4/5/04)


5 May 2004