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Hong Kong’s Catholics concern for non secular freedom

Hong Kong’s Catholics concern for non secular freedom


(Photo: Getty/iStock)

Hong Kong’s Catholic neighborhood has been left fearing that one of many key tenets of its religion is beneath risk after the passage of recent safety legal guidelines final month.


Article 23 of the National Security Law makes “failing to reveal the fee of treason by others” a legal offence punishable with prolonged jail sentences.

Human rights teams and members of the Church have expressed issues that it might be used to stress clergymen into revealing secrets and techniques shared beneath the Seal of the Confessional—which is taken into account inviolable and sacred in Catholic doctrine.

UK advocacy group Hong Kong Watch issued a letter warning of the risk posed by the legal guidelines within the lead-up to their passage via Hong Kong’s Legislative Assembly, claiming that it constituted a violation of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which upholds the non secular freedoms and rights of people.

“For many spiritual traditions, and particularly for the Catholic Church, the follow of what’s referred to as the Sacrament of Penance (in any other case referred to as the Sacrament of Reconciliation or Confession) is a spiritual act of completely pivotal, sacrosanct significance,” the joint letter acknowledged.

“At the guts of the Sacrament of Penance is the completely important precept of confidentiality…a priest may encourage a penitent who has dedicated a severe crime to admit that crime to the authorities, the priest can’t report it himself and mustn’t ever be held criminally answerable for having heard that confession.”

A spokesperson for the Chinese authorities accused the group of being “anti-China”, and intentionally misrepresenting the regulation.

“The offences of treason and misprision of treason…don’t goal non secular personnel or followers, and don’t have anything to do with freedom of faith,” the spokesperson mentioned. “In any case, freedom of faith shouldn’t be for safeguarding anybody who has dedicated severe offences from authorized sanctions.”

Despite the federal government’s denials, many clergymen concern that safety forces will use the regulation to infringe on the sanctity of the confessional by threatening clergymen with imprisonment, sending brokers into confessionals for the needs of entrapment, and even planting listening units in church buildings.

Speaking to the UK’s Telegraph newspaper, one priest described the brand new regulation as “like a knife above your head”. Other clergymen, chatting with the paper on the situation of anonymity, expressed fears concerning the influence of the laws on their capability to serve the wants of their congregations and whether or not it might make it troublesome to stay true to their mission to uphold the Gospel.

“For us true believers, we’re not scared, we solely fear that individuals in want won’t be helped,” one other priest mentioned.

“In actuality, we’re not in a position to unfold the entire gospel, we’re not allowed to talk the entire reality, we’re not free to warn our individuals concerning the evil of communism and the harms it has accomplished in historical past. What sort of truth-bearers are we, if we don’t rise up for the reality? That’s the primary battle.”

Responding to the brand new legal guidelines, the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong issued an announcement stating that the laws wouldn’t “alter the confidential nature of Confession (Sacrament of Reconciliation) of the Church”, whereas additionally saying that “residents have an obligation to make sure nationwide safety”.

This has left many Catholics calling on the Church to take a firmer line in denouncing the brand new laws, with Hong Kong Watch warning that it quantities to a crackdown on faith in Hong Kong by stealth, motivated by the actual fact many Catholic believers maintain pro-democracy convictions.

“Instead of a bodily crackdown on faith in Hong Kong, the authorities’ intention is to create an atmosphere wherein non secular leaders and practitioners really feel obligated to self-censor, compromise and kowtow, so as to defend the fundamental freedom of worship that they get pleasure from,” it mentioned.



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