Hong Kong's top Catholic cleric, Bishop Stephen Chow, received an invitation last year from the bishop of Beijing, Joseph Li Shan. As a result, Bishop Chow will have a five-day trip to the country to encourage communication and collaboration between the two groups.
Bishop Stephen Chow Visits Beijing to be 'A Bridge Between Two Sides'
A report from LBC International stated that a Diocese had confirmed that this will be the first time since 1985, when Hong Kong was still a British colony, that a Hong Kong bishop will be making an official visit to Beijing. The city has been a solid Catholic beachhead on the edge of mainland China for decades despite being ruled by the officially atheist communist party. Some Catholics consider it a source of friction in a habitually contentious relationship between the Vatican and China.
In a statement released on Thursday, Mar. 9, the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese explained that Chow's journey, which will begin on Apr. 17 and last for five days, is in response to an invitation the Bishop of Beijing extended, Joseph Li Shan, the previous year. Bishop Chow said that the purpose of the visit is to highlight the mission of the Diocese of Hong Kong, which is to act as a "bridge and encourage exchanges and interactions between the two sides."
As mentioned, officials from the Vatican have clarified that Hong Kong is not part of a confidential but provisional arrangement reached between the Holy See and Beijing in 2018 regarding the appointment of bishops. An underground flock loyal to the pope and an official church supported by the state have been at odds throughout mainland China for a very long time. This accord was an attempt to alleviate the tensions between the two groups. For the first time since the 1950s, both factions acknowledged the pope's position as the highest authority within the Catholic Church.
However, according to US News, some local priests and missionaries are concerned that Beijing has been attempting to increase its influence over Hong Kong Catholics. It could happen because the deal was extended for two more years in October. In May of 2021, Pope Francis made the long-delayed appointment of Chow to the position of bishop of Hong Kong. This appointment came amid increasing Western concern over the city's human rights and freedoms treatment. Cardinal Joseph Zen, Chow's predecessor and a vocal foe of the Sino-Vatican deal, was found guilty in November of failing to register a democracy protester fund. He was given a fine of HK$4,000 ($512) as punishment for his offense.
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Hong Kong British Colony
An article from the Los Angeles Times stated that except for the years 1941 through 1945, when the Japanese occupied it, Hong Kong was a colony of the United Kingdom from 1841 until it was handed over to Chinese authorities in 1997. Its colonial status resulted from treaties signed in the 19th century after the first and second Opium Wars. In addition, in 1898, the New Territories were granted a 99-year lease, significantly increasing the colony's size.
The Chinese Communist Party, which took control of the country during a civil war in 1949 and has been in power ever since, claims that it has never acknowledged what it refers to as the "unequal treaties" that the Qing Dynasty was forced to sign after suffering military defeats.
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