Hong Kong bishop fears clampdown on Church

 The bishop of Hong Kong accused mainland China of tightening repressive controls against Catholics. Bishop Joseph Zen, said a section of the proposed new anti subversion law could be used to suppress Hong Kong groups considered 'subordinate' to organizations banned in the mainland, because they are seen as a threat to national security. He said he feared the law could be used against Hong Kong's Roman Catholic church because of its ties to underground Catholic churches in China. Bishop Joseph, was born in Shanghai but has been barred from the mainland since 1998. Speaking at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Hong Kong, on Monday, he said that although the number of officially sanctioned mainland Catholic churches was rising, the Chinese government was "using ever more repressive measures" to exert control, adding that Catholic seminaries in China have been denied the right to invite visiting scholars to teach. "Obviously if you compare the church today with 20 years ago, there's been big progress. The church is open and new churches are being built." But, he said: "Sometimes it's one step forward, two steps back." "We will just carry on our normal work, but with a little more discretion," Bishop Joseph said. "Many times we abstain from making comments because we know that would not help our bishops and priests in China." The anti subversion bill was introduced to the Hong Kong legislature last week and could become law this summer. Currently the 347,000 Roman Catholics living in Hong Kong can worship freely under an autonomy arrangement devised when the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997. There are an estimated 12 million Catholics in mainland China. Officially they are only allowed to attend services in state-approved churches as the Beijing government does not recognize the Vatican's authority in China. Those Catholics who worship in China's underground churches, loyal to the Pope, risk arrest and imprisonment.

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