Hong Kong Catholic Diocese Cancels Tiananmen Memorial for First Time, Terrified by CCP Backlash

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The diocese of Hong Kong has canceled its Tiananmen Square Massacre Memorial for the first time.

The diocese asked those wishing to commemorate the victims of the brutal 1989 massacre to instead hold private services or pray in small groups, according to the South China Morning Post. The cancellation comes after the arrest of Hong Kong’s most prominent Catholic clergyman, Cardinal Joseph Zen.

“According to the Catholic faith, we can commemorate the deceased in different ways, holding a Mass is of course one way,” the diocese said. “But the simple act of praying for the deceased in private or in small groups will also be very meaningful.”

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“Regarding Cardinal Joseph Zen, Bishop Emeritus of the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong, appeared today (24 May) in West Kowloon Court to answer charges of not registering a fund, the Cardinal pleaded not guilty “, wrote the diocese of Hong Kong in a press release after Zen appeared in court. “The diocese will closely follow the development of the incident. Cardinal Zen is always in our prayers and we invite everyone to pray for the Church!

Zen, a former bishop of Hong Kong, appeared in court on Tuesday after he was unceremoniously arrested by Chinese Communist Party officials.

The 90-year-old cardinal, who was arrested with four other democracy defenders, was a trustee of a relief fund used to bail out protesters and pay legal fees, according to the Catholic News Agency. The five people arrested are accused of failing to register the charity with the government.

All five entered pleas of not guilty.

For years, China quashed any mainland discussion of its bloody 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, nearly erasing what happened from the collective consciousness. The semi-autonomous territories of Hong Kong and nearby Macau were for years the last places on Chinese soil allowed to publicly mark the events of June 4, 1989, when the People’s Liberation Army opened fire on protesters led by students in a crackdown that left hundreds dead. , if not thousands, dead.

Students erect a statue called the Goddess of Democracy in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in the spring of 1989.
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Students erect a statue called the Goddess of Democracy in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in the spring of 1989.
(Jacques Langevin/Sygma/Sygma via Getty Images)

Zen is at the epicenter of Catholic Churchstruggle for survival in China. The nation has launched intense censorships on religious expression, including Christianity, which it regulates through state-sponsored “patriotic associations.” Chinese citizens who wish to worship in a Catholic church (or any other place of worship) are required to register with an aggressively pro-CCP governing body for their faith. These organizations often force churches to teach against their dogma and often insert nationalist propaganda into worship. This settlement forced a schism in the Chinese Catholic Church – the “official” and CCP-sanctioned ministry, and the clandestine and illegal “underground church”.

Zen served as an unofficial spokesperson for the underground Catholic community, which received little support or protection from the Chinese government. the the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) explicitly condemns the underground church for its affiliation and loyalty to a foreign power – the worldwide Catholic communion.

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Cardinal Joseph Zen, second from left, joins his colleagues at the episcopal ordination of the Right Reverend Stephen Chow in Hong Kong's Immaculate Conception Cathedral on Dec. 4, 2021. (Bertha Wang/AFP via Getty Images)

Cardinal Joseph Zen, second from left, joins his colleagues at the episcopal ordination of the Right Reverend Stephen Chow in Hong Kong’s Immaculate Conception Cathedral on Dec. 4, 2021. (Bertha Wang/AFP via Getty Images)

Government-sanctioned threats of violence and arrest have slowly crippled Hong Kong residents’ ability to protest communist policies. The Chinese Communist Party has closed several memorials and gatherings in honor of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, including art projects.

A monument at a Hong Kong university that was the best-known public remembrance of the Tiananmen Square massacre on Chinese the floor was removed in December 2021, wiping out the city’s last place of public commemoration of the bloody 1989 crackdown.

The 26ft Pillar of Shame, which depicts 50 torn and twisted bodies piled on top of each other, was made by Danish sculptor Jens Galschioet to symbolize the lives lost in the military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters on the Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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