Cardinal John Tong Hon of Hong Kong has issued an “urgent appeal” to Communist Party chiefs in Beijing, calling on them to order a halt to an ongoing cross-removal campaign in Zhejiang province. “I sincerely and urgently appealed to the central government to contact the Zhejiang provincial government and investigate the real situation and stop all illegal cross removals,” the cardinal said in an Aug. 12 statement. The Chinese authorities should “return to the right path, placing supreme importance on the constitution, ruling the country according to the law, and governing by the law,” he said. The cardinal also called on Catholics in Hong Kong to pray and fast for religious dignity and freedom in order to share the sufferings of their persecuted brothers and sisters on the mainland. His appeal comes after Chinese authorities on Aug. 11 scotched rumors circulating among Christian leaders and on social media that the 20-month campaign, which has seen the removal of more than 1,200 crosses, would be halted. The appeal also comes less than a week after Hong Kong's Anglican archbishop, Paul Kwong, called on Chinese authorities to halt cross removals in Zhejiang province, which is home to an estimated 2 million Christians, including 210,000 Catholics. Observers on social media have criticized Hong Kong's Christian leaders, accusing them of dragging their feet in issuing responses to the cross removals. Soon after the Catholic diocesan weekly, Kung Kao Po, posted Cardinal Tong's statement on its Facebook page, blogger Anthony Yuen left a message saying the appeal was too slow in coming. “Hasn't the response come a bit late?” he asked. In response, Sister Pauline Yuen of the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception said the cardinal's statement was “better late than never”.
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