CNA Staff, Mar 22, 2021 / 16:01 pm
A Swedish scholar who studies China has called for the Vatican to speak up about human rights abuses by the Chinese government, noting that “dialogue on equal terms is not what is happening.”
“China should be treated like any other country and play by the same rules as others,” Fredrik Fällman, Associate Professor of Sinology at the University of Gothenburg, wrote in a March 19 column at East Asia Forum.
“The Catholic Church often comments on the situation in other countries. Yet in China, the Vatican keeps silent on many concerning developments — including structural religious persecution, labour rights issues and human rights abuses against the Uyghurs. It seems Vatican officials are holding China to a different standard compared to other countries.”
In 2018, the Vatican reached an agreement with the Chinese government on the appointment of bishops. The terms of the agreement, which was renewed in October 2020 for two more years, have never been publicly revealed.
The agreement was undertaken to help unite the state-run Church and the underground Church. An estimated 6 million Catholics are registered with the Chinese Communist Party, while several million are estimated to belong to unregistered Catholic communities which have remained loyal to the Holy See.
According to Joseph Cardinal Zen, Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong, Christians in China have continued to be persecuted and harassed by authorities, “despite the agreement.”
The policy of “sinicization”, announced by Chinese president Xi Jinping in 2015, aims to enforce Chinese and communist identity on all religious practice in the country. It has included instructing churches to remove images of the Ten Commandments and replace them with sayings of Mao Zedong and Xi.
Fällman noted that even in Hong Kong, where religious people enjoy more freedom than on the mainland, Beijing has been tightening its control over religion in recent years, most recently by way of a “national security” law which came into force last summer.