Last weekend, protestors in Hong Kong turned out in large numbers to oppose China's plans to impose the security laws.
Defying the city's coronavirus restrictions- which currently prohibit gatherings greater than eight- thousands of protestors turned out on the streets May 24, with police arresting at least 180 and at least six protestors needing to be hospitalized because the police used tear gas and pepper spray, the New York Times reported.
More protests took place May 28 during which over 300 protestors were arrested.
Attendance was lower than the large-scale protests of last year, partly because of the virus, and partly because police are using more assertive tactics to quell protests before they occur, the Times reports. Protestors reportedly smashed at least one storefront and threw objects at police.
The citizens of Hong Kong are largely free to protest, though Hong Kong's police have come under fire for harsh tactics in suppressing the crowds.
In January, China appointed Luo Huining as the head of the powerful Central Liaison Office in Hong Kong, who in April intensified calls for Communist China to exercise more control in Hong Kong by passing "national security legislation."
Now that those tightened security laws have passed, the Commuist Chinese government is poised to have more power to suppress the protests in Hong Kong, which it sees as a direct challenge to its power.
Many of Hong Kong's Catholic leaders, including Auxiliary Bishop Ha Chi-shing, have been publicly supportive of the protests. In April, the Justice and Peace Commission of the Diocese of Hong Kong called for the government to respond to the demands for which the pro-democracy demonstrators have been calling for months, which include an independent inquiry into police tactics.
Zen said although he believes many in the Catholic community in Hong Kong oppose China's actions, he worries that the Vatican will appoint a new bishop, sympathetic to Beijing, who may not be as insistent on democratic values.
"Even our [Catholic] community is divided, as everybody in Hong Kong must take sides. Even families are split," he commented.
The Diocese of Hong Kong has been without permanent leadership since January 2019, when Bishop Michael Yeung Ming-cheung died unexpectedly. Since Yeung died, the diocese has been led temporarily by Cardinal John Tong Hon, Yeung's predecessor, who retired from the post in 2017.
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When CNA reported in January that a decision to appoint Father Peter Choy Wai-man as Hong Kong's next bishop had received final approval in Rome, local clergy and lay Catholics expressed worry to CNA that Father Choy is too sympathetic to the Chinese Communist government, with one source describing him as a "pro-Beijing hawk."
Zen said he worries that Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin will insist that the next bishop of Hong Kong have "the blessing of Beijing."
"I think the majority of the faithful, the silent majority...they think that the authority is wrong. And you can just imagine, in all these years, with all the persecution increasing in China, with all the cruelties, the brutalities of the police on our young people- no word from the Vatican. No word. Not one word."
"We rely on help from heaven...from the human perspective, we have nothing to hope," he said.
On May 27, the US Department of State announced that, in light of China's actions, it no longer recognizes Hong Kong as politically autonomous from China- a designation the region has enjoyed under US law since 1992. The announcement opens the door to possible sanctions against chinese officials and other measures including tariffs on goods coming from Hong Kong.
In addition, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada issued a joint statement calling the move a violation of China's obligations under the 1997 treaty that turned Hong Kong over to China, the Wall Street Journal reports.