Thin-skinned Chinese censors downgrade Zen's status

Beijing anger with Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen's public campaign against its serial human rights abuses is clear
Thin-skinned Chinese censors downgrade Zen's status

A file photo of retired Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun of Hong Kong (center) taking part in a protest over religious freedom on mainland China, in Hong Kong on July 11, 2012. (Photo by Philippe Lopez/AFP) reporter, Hong Kong
July 27, 2017
Chinese propaganda chiefs have ordered mainland journalists not to describe outspoken retired Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun as the "emeritus" bishop of Hong Kong but to instead use the word "former."

The new terminology on how to refer to Cardinal Zen was part of a broader list of words and phrases to be "banned or used with care," state-run Xinhua News Agency informed media workers in China.

"'Former bishop' instead of 'emeritus bishop' should be used to address Zen Ze-kiun and other retired bishops of the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese," said point No. 48, according to the list posted by several Chinese media.

Cardinal Zen is well known for his loathing of the ruling Communist Party. He has spoken out on political freedom, human rights and religious persecution, especially during his six and half years as bishop of Hong Kong up to his retirement in September 2009, often attracting criticism from Beijing in response.

Since then, the cardinal has continued his advocacy efforts and his willingness to get involved in debates over the territory's political future has made him a favorite of pro-democracy groups in Hong Kong.

Most recently he spoke out about the communist government's treatment of Liu Xiaobo, the Nobel Laureate who died July 13. 

The word ban has riled several mainland Catholic bloggers, already dealing with a ban on using virtual private networks, a tool that they use to avoid China's so-called Great Firewall internet censorship.

"Emeritus bishop. So, come and arrest me?" challenged a Catholic blogger on social media.

Another blogger said "it is the church practice to call a retired bishop as emeritus bishop. It is a departure from reality to change the way of addressing."


Revised do's and don'ts

The first 45-points in the list of banned words in news coverage was released in November 2015. The revised one has been circulating since July 19, adding 57 more points and updated as of July 2016 — but only recently leaked to other media.

Cardinal Zen is the only Catholic figure named in the list. He is one of two religious figures whose names were spelled out, the other figure being Prophet Mohammed, the founder of Islam. The list reminded reporters to address the full name of people whose surname is also Mohammed, so as to distinguish them from the Prophet.

The list was divided into five categories: social and political; legal and laws; religions and ethnicity; Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan and sovereignty-related; as well as international relations.

Five out of eight points on religions and ethnicity related to Islam, such as not to equate the Hui ethnic group as Muslim; not to use "kill" but "slaughter" of cattle by Muslims; and not to mention pigs in stories related to Muslim faith. These points were already part of the 2015 list.

Sign up to receive UCAN Daily Full Bulletin
Thank you. You are now signed up to our Daily Full Bulletin newsletter
Most of the newly added "banned or to use with care" terms related to cross-strait relations, due to an increase in political tensions with Taiwan since Tsai Ing-wen assumed presidency, and political developments in Hong Kong.

Point No. 48 of the revised list told mainland media not to call the three Hong Kong organizers of the "illegal" Occupy Central Movement with honorific "Occupy Trios" and to use the derogative "Ugly Three."

© Copyright 2019, All rights reserved
© Copyright 2019, Union of Catholic Asian News Limited. All rights reserved
Expect for any fair dealing permitted under the Hong Kong Copyright Ordinance.
No part of this publication may be reproduced by any means without prior permission.