Bishop of Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun has said his interview with an Italian newspaper, in which he warned that Chinese nationalism could lead to fascism and dictatorship, was “belated and misplaced” for being published in the aftermath of the devastating Sichuan earthquake.
A May 27 statement issued on behalf of Cardinal Zen said the timing of La Stampa’s release of the interview had dismayed many people. The statement said it was “highly inconceivable” that the paper had chosen the aftermath of the earthquake to juxtapose fascism and Chinese leaders.
Also on May 27 Chinese media carried reports of Cardinal Zen’s critical remarks, which were made the day before the Sichuan quake, May 11.
In the interview with La Stampa, Cardinal Zen referred to analysts who “see in recent events in China the danger that the country is on the road to fascism, or maybe is heading towards a dictatorial regime with strong nationalist tendencies.”
“The government has insisted greatly on Chinese pride for the upcoming Olympic games, saying it is only a healthy national sentiment and not ideological nationalism,” the cardinal said.
The cardinal’s statement said that in the La Stampa interview, he had prayed “that China would escape from the dictatorship of nationalism.”
The cardinal’s reaction also mentioned that after the Sichuan earthquake, Cardinal Zen immediately directed the Diocese of Hong Kong and Caritas Hong Kong to deliver assistance. In addition, the statement praised the Chinese leaders’ response to the disaster for manifesting “high transparency and openness in relief process and strategy -- a human orientated mind-set.”
The cardinal also said that a local Chinese paper had made a serious mistake when it misquoted him as saying that the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association is highly appreciated by the "open" and "underground" Catholic communities in mainland China.