Date:                      May 16, 2022


China (MNN) — Chinese officials have arrested a catholic cardinal for breaking the national security law. Cardinal Joseph Zen, a former Bishop of Hong Kong, is 90 years old. If found guilty, he could spend the rest of his life in prison.

The Human Rights Watch described the arrest as a “shocking new low” for freedoms in Hong Kong. Cardinal Zen fled to Hong Kong from Shanghai when China first fell under communist rule 70 years ago.

China and the Vatican

Todd Nettleton with The Voice of the Martyrs USA says, “He has been an outspoken critic of the persecution of Catholics inside China, and of the Vatican for compromising and accepting that persecution, accepting communist party control over the Catholic Church in China. So he has been a longtime thorn in the side of the Chinese Communist Party.”

Cardinal Zen’s arrest could sour relations between China and the Vatican. For several years, the Catholic Church has been trying to improve relations with China, a move Cardinal Zen criticized.

Free speech

Cardinal Zen was arrested for supporting protestors in Hong Kong. He was often seen marching in the streets or attending the hearings of pro-democracy activists. A state-run Chinese newspaper referred to him as a “lawless” and “anti-China.”

These are not religious charges, Nettleton says. But they do reflect a lack of freedom to speak out on religious issues. “As you look at the trajectory of how things are going, it’s hard not to be afraid for brothers and sisters in Hong Kong. It’s hard not to think that at some point, the control of the government is going to become the control of religious expression, just like what brothers and sisters in other parts of China already face.”

Ask God to give wisdom and discernment to Christians in Hong Kong. Nettleton says, “Many people in Hong Kong have fled, saying they will not live under communist China, and Hong Kong is becoming Communist China. Others have made the bold step of saying we’re not going to stop speaking out.”

The header photo shows Cardinal Zen praying before a protest in 2002. (Photo courtesy of Alfredoko, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons)