[Church Times]

Hong Kong’s archbishop, the Most Rev. Paul Kwong, defended the controversial new security law imposed by the Chinese government on the city in a July 10 letter to The Church Times. Archbishop Kwong, who also serves as chair of the Anglican Consultative Council, claimed that the law was necessary to preserve peace in a city disrupted by protests, and that its Western critics are blinded by anti-China bias.

The law significantly reduces the city’s autonomy and enhances the government’s power to control ongoing pro-democracy protests, which began in March 2019. It criminalizes as subversion any act that “undermines the power or authority of the central government,” and allows the Beijing government to establish its own security office in the city, with its own law enforcement officers, who will operate outside the city’s jurisdiction.

Kwong has consistently called for peace between police and protesters. He said the security law was a necessary response to protester violence “not only against the police and local government, but against the central government, with rioters attacking people of different political views, vandalizing pro-China business buildings, smearing the national flag and emblem.”  The security law is intended “to diminish the agitation against the government that last year brought things to a standstill, and to restore law and order,” he added.

“This law is necessary for our well-being,” Archbishop Kwong wrote. “Many critics do not accept the fact that we are part of China. They only emphasize two systems, not one country. I cherish our Hong Kong freedoms — in particular the freedom of religion and way of life — as much as anyone, and I don’t think this law will change any of that. I am also proud to be living in China.”

He also said he believes that the security law “targets only law breakers, and it does not undermine any freedom of Hong Kong, in particular the freedom of religion. It does not affect the Church or any other religious organization.” He said that churches in Macau, which has operated under a similar security law for the last 21 years, have been able to operate freely.

Kwong’s assessment clashes with that of his counterpart Cardinal Muang Bo, president of the Roman Catholic Church’s Asian Bishops’ Conference, who asked in a statement earlier this week: “Will religious leaders now be criminalized for preaching about human dignity, human rights, justice, liberty, truth? We have learned from heavy experience that wherever freedom as a whole is undermined, freedom of religion or belief — sooner or later — is affected.”

The Hong Kong archbishop also criticized British prime minister Boris Johnson’s promise of visas and a path to citizenship for Hong Kongers who fear persecution under the security law. “Such actions are not expressions of Christian charity but of anti-China sentiment,” Kwong wrote.

“China is consistently portrayed as evil, trying to destroy everything that is Hong Kong, in much of the Western media and by western politicians, whereas the British or American government is praised as the benevolent protector and savior of Hong Kong. In fact, China has been helping and supporting Hong Kong and our people all these years. We are part of China; we are dependent on China, and we benefit from China.”

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