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Hong Kong Diocese accused of succumbing to political pressure

Critics within the Catholic Church say the diocese took a pro-Beijing stance in its directions to schools

Hong Kong Diocese accused of succumbing to political pressure

The Cathedral of Immaculate Conception in Hong Kong diocese. The diocesan office for education has asked Catholic schools and its only college to comply with a national security law Beijing introduced in July. (Photo: UCA News)  

Published: August 11, 2020 03:34 AM GMT

Updated: August 14, 2020 10:02 AM GMT

Hong Kong Diocese has asked Catholic schools to create awareness about the new national security law in a move that some say challenges the future of Catholic education in the Special Administrative Region of China.

The diocesan office for education last week sent a letter to all Catholic schools and its only college asking them to "promote proper recognition" of the security law and the Chinese national anthem.

The directions issued on Aug. 4 were a sign of church leaders succumbing to political pressure from the communist regime, according to the Catholics Concerned about the Hong Kong National Security Law Group.

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"It shows that our church leaders are succumbing under political pressure, and our children's education is at risk," the group said in a written statement.

Beijing enforced the security law on July 1, primarily to check the student-led pro-democracy movement that has been rocking the former British colony since June 2019.

Beijing views the public demonstrations demanding freedom for Hong Kong as terror activities and treason. The new law makes such activities punishable crimes along with insults to the national flag and the Chinese national anthem.

The diocesan letter asked schools "to be vigilant” about having any organization or activity in the name of the school. If the school's name is being used, it should be clarified "to set the record straight."

The school management is asked "to monitor the teaching and training materials effectively," along with assignments, examination papers and books to develop "positive attitudes" in the "teaching and learning process."

The schools should “enhance students' awareness of national security and law abidingness and enable them to recognize and respect” the national flag, the national emblem, and the national anthem.

The schools should also help students cultivate "a correct concept of national identity according to the social teaching of the Catholic Church," the official statement said.

'Holding a candle for the devil'

Most Hong Kong people consider their identity different from Chinese, but Beijing wants to enforce a Chinese identity for Hong Kong people, imposing its national anthem and the national flag.

With the official Church in Hong Kong supporting the Beijing move, "we could not help but worry about our future Catholic education," the Catholic group said.

During the 2014 Umbrella movement, the Church affirmed the right of teachers and students to participate and take a stance in political matters. Schools were also asked not to punish those taking part in such activities.

A shift in attitude has happened in six years and it is “alarming," the Catholic group noted.

They also said the core value of Catholic education is truth, and schools should not oppress "students' search for the truth for the sake of maintaining national security … We must not lie to stay politically correct," it said.

Catholic institutions are supposed to safeguard human dignity. "It is ironic that they now align with those condemned by the Church and even hold a candle for the devil," the Catholic group said.

"There are values of faith that cannot be abandoned. If the shepherd turns away from his sheep, who can the youngest of our herd look upon?"

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