As Hong Kong comes under Chinese control, Christian leaders are preparing for a changed environment for religious freedom, despite the assurances by China that they will continue to enjoy independence of state control, according to several reports.
Chinese officials have recently told Catholic church leaders that they will not set up offices of the Religious Affairs Bureau and United Front department in the city — two agencies that have regulated religious life in China, reports the Washington Post (June 26).
“Nonetheless, potential conflicts loom over a host of issues, including visas for foreign missionaries in Hong Kong, local church groups’ links with underground and house churches in China proper, the curricula of Hong Kong religious schools, the content of religious magazines and newspapers, and rental costs of church lands that were essentially free under British rule,” writes Steven Mufson.
A key concern for Hong Kong Catholic churches will be to keep their role as a bridge between the the church in the West and Catholics in China, many of whom have faced government. repression. Bishop Joseph Zen says that if the Hong Kong church complains about the repression of China’s Catholics to authorities, they will have their protected status thrown back at them.
“Because if you insist on `one country, two systems,’ they will tell you, `Come on, we respect your system; you must respect our system.'”