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In Hong Kong, thousands defy police to mark Tiananmen Square

June 4, 2020 CNA Daily News 0

CNA Staff, Jun 4, 2020 / 11:30 am (CNA).- Thousands of protesters in Hong Kong held public vigils for the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre on Thursday, despite police orders forbidding large gatherings.

On the evening of June 4, thousands took to the streets of Hong Kong to commemorate the anniversary of the 1989 massacre and to protest against new security laws being imposed on the region by the Chinese national legislature.

On June 4, 1989, as Chinese military fired on mass pro-democracy demonstrations by students in Tiananmen Square, killing at least hundreds and injuring thousands. Commemorations of the massacre are censored in the Chinese mainland, but annual vigils to remember the event have been held each year in Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China.

A public vigil for the anniversary of the massacre had originally been planned to be held in Victoria Park on June 4, but police curtailed the event because of public health restrictions during the new coronavirus pandemic.

Thousands of people still climbed over police barriers into the park on Thursday evening, lighting candles and observing a moment of silence for the Tiananmen victims, according to the Hong Kong Free Press.

Elsewhere in Hong Kong, some protesters blocked streets and clashed with police, while others gathered in other parts of the city, chanting in favor of democracy and against security legislation that the Chinese national legislature is imposing on the region.

A spokesman for the diocese of Hong Kong told Catholic News Service that “special Masses” would be offered on the evening of June 4, and that the police order against the Victoria Park gathering “does not mean that there will be no vigil.”

According to the South China Morning Post, more than 3,000 riot officers were deployed in the city.

Hong Kong has enjoyed special administrative status as part of the “one country, two systems” agreement when the United Kingdom transferred control over the region to China in 1997, with its own legislature.

That status, democracy advocates have warned, is in jeopardy due to efforts by the Chinese national legislature to pass security bills imposing changes on the region without the consent of the Hong Kong legislature.

On May 27, bishop-emeritus of Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen told CNA, “We have nothing good to hope for. Hong Kong is simply completely under [China’s] control. We depend on China even for our food and water. But we put ourselves in the hands of God.”

“We rely on help from heaven…from the human perspective, we have nothing to hope,” he said

Activists held large-scale pro-democracy demonstrations last year, protesting a law that would allow for extradition of alleged criminals to mainland China. The bill eventually was pulled from consideration by the Hong Kong legislature.

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Hong Kong police cancel Tiananmen Square vigil

June 1, 2020 CNA Daily News 1

CNA Staff, Jun 1, 2020 / 10:00 am (CNA).- Hong Kong police have reportedly curtailed a vigil for the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, citing public health concerns.

The cancellation of the annual vigil comes after the Chinese legislature last week moved to impose security laws on Hong Kong that democracy advocates say completely undermine the region’s autonomy.

On Monday, the city’s police force sent a letter to the organizer of the Tiananmen vigil saying that the annual event could not take place out of caution for spreading the new coronavirus, the Hong Kong Free Press reported. The police said they were extending current public health restrictions on gatherings to the event.

It is reportedly the first time in 30 years that the vigil will not take place in Hong Kong, which commemorates the killing of hundreds pro-democracy protesters by the Chinese military in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, on June 3-4 in 1989. 

The “special administrative regions” of Hong Kong and Macau are the only places in China where the events have been publicly commemorated. Vigils for the 30th anniversary of Tiananmen last year were censored in the Chinese mainland. The annual vigil in the city’s Victoria Park draws large crowds every year. In 2019, organizers estimated participation at 180,000, though police announced a crowd size of only 40,000.

As a “special administrative region” of China, Hong Kong has its own legislature and economic system as part of the “one country, two systems” agreement when the United Kingdom transferred control of the territory to China in 1997.

While tensions with the Chinese mainland have existed since the handover, in recent years pro-democracy advocates have voiced increasing concerns that the city’s autonomy is in jeopardy.

Last summer, Hong Kong’s legislature introduced a controversial bill that would allow for extradition of alleged criminals to the Chinese mainland; the bill was pulled after months of large-scale pro-democracy protests. Mass demonstrations and street protests continued throughout the second half of 2019, with some Catholic students taking a role in the protests to push for autonomy and religious freedom.

Last month, China moved to impose new security and anti sedition measures on Hong Kong, prompting international observers to declare that the region is no longer autonomous.

After efforts to pass the law on the island stalled, on May 21 the mainland government announced a plan bypass Hong Kong’s legislature, criminalizing acts that are interpreted to be a subversion of state authority, foreign interference, or secessionist. On May 28, the national legislature passed a resolution to allow for the security laws to be imposed on Hong Kong. The vote carried by a margin of 2,878 to 1, with the single delegate from Hong Kong opposing the measure.

Cardinal Joseph Zen, the bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, told CNA on May 27 that “We have nothing good to hope for. Hong Kong is simply completely under [China’s] control.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated on May 27 that “[n]o reasonable person can assert today that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy from China, given facts on the ground.” A May 28 joint statement of the U.S., Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom expressed “deep concern” over the security law, saying it would “dramatically erode Hong Kong’s autonomy.”

Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ), who authored the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act which passed the U.S. House last year, said that Beijing’s actions are linked to its systematic repression of human rights throughout the whole country.

“It would be myopic for the world not to recognize Xi Jinping’s assault on Hong Kong including the new draconian national security legislation as part of the Chinese communist government’s exponential increase of abuse that includes genocide against Muslim Uyghurs, the massive crackdown on religious freedom, the pervasive use of torture against prisoners of conscience, coercive population control including forced abortion and COVID-19 lies that launched a pandemic,” Smith said.

“The United States—even if we have to go it alone—must impose sanctions.” he said.

On May 30, President Trump announced that the U.S. would revoke its policies conferring special treatment on Hong Kong and revise the State Department’s travel advisory to the region.

The Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong has been led temporarily by retired Cardinal John Tong Hon since January of 2019. Cardinal Zen told CNA his concern that the next bishop of Hong Kong would have Beijing’s approval.

“And you can just imagine, in all these years, with all the persecution increasing in China, with all the cruelties, the brutalities of the police on our young people— no word from the Vatican. No word. Not one word,” Cardinal Zen said.

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New South Wales worship restrictions changed after complaints of unfair treatment

May 29, 2020 CNA Daily News 1

CNA Staff, May 29, 2020 / 05:46 pm (CNA).- Churches in New South Wales will be allowed to open with the same restrictions as other buildings, after Australian Catholics complained that religious services were being treated unfairly.

Over the past few days, 20,000 Catholics signed a petition by the Sydney Archdiocese asking Premier Gladys Berejiklian to offer churches the same treatment as other NSW venues.

When coronavirus restrictions begin to lift on June 1, bars, restaurants, and clubs will be permitted a maximum capacity of 50 people present. Churches, however, were only to be allowed 10 worshipers at any one time.

“I am at a loss to explain to Catholics in Sydney why our reasonable requests to the government are not being granted,” said Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney, according to the Catholic Weekly.

Following the launch of the petition, NSW officials announced Friday that places of worship will instead have a 50 person limit like other facilities, as long as social distancing protocols are followed. Weddings will only be allowed to have 20 people in attendance, but funerals will be permitted 50.

Fisher applauded the government’s new regulation and expressed gratitude to the Catholics who signed the petition. He said it was “a victory of common sense.”

“The closure of our churches and indeed of all places of worship has been deeply distressing for many people of faith in our community,” Archbishop Fisher said, according to Catholic Weekly. “It added to the isolation and anxiety that so many were feeling.”

“With restrictions easing, many were concerned that the churches were being left behind, and wanted to make their voices heard. People of faith weren’t asking for special treatment, but wanted to be treated equally.”

“I look forward to welcoming them back in greater numbers from Monday,” the  archbishop said. “We will continue to abide by government health directives, and continue to pray for an end to the pandemic and all those affected by it.”

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Religious freedom in jeopardy as China passes new Hong Kong ‘security laws’

May 28, 2020 CNA Daily News 1

Denver Newsroom, May 28, 2020 / 01:25 pm (CNA).- A Hong Kong cardinal told CNA that changes to Hong Kong’s status in China could threaten the religious freedom of Catholics and other religious believers.

The legislature of China on May 28 approved a resolution to impose new “security laws” on its formerly autonomous region, Hong Kong— a move pro-democracy protestors and Catholics in the country fear will undermine Hong Kongers’ freedoms, including freedom of religion.

The new laws aim to criminalize anything Beijing considers “foreign interference,” secessionist activities, or subversion of state power, the Washington Post reports. The laws also could allow Chinese security forces to operate in the city.

Cardinal Joseph Zen, Bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, told CNA that he worries that the new laws will be used to subvert the freedom of religion that Hong Kongers currently enjoy.

Hong Kong has had broad protections for the freedom of worship and for evangelization, while in mainland China, there is a long history of persecution for Christians who run afoul of the government.

Most needed at the moment is prayer, Zen said.

“We have nothing good to hope for. Hong Kong is simply completely under [China’s] control. We depend on China even for our food and water. But we put ourselves in the hands of God,” Cardinal Zen told CNA in a May 27 interview.

Hong Kong is a “special administrative region” of China, meaning it has its own government but remains under Chinese control. It was a British colony until 1997, when it was returned to China under a “one country, two systems” principle, which allowed for its own legislature and economic system.

Hong Kong’s openness to the outside world, and transparency in business and banking regulation, in contrast to mainland China, has made it a center of global business, banking, and finance.

China had announced May 21 a plan to enact so-called “security laws” affecting Hong Kong, with Chinese officials in Beijing saying that the National People’s Congress, the country’s legislature, would sidestep Hong Kong’s legislature and impose changes on the region.

The National People’s Congress’ annual session began May 22. After the May 28 vote, which passed 2,878 to 1, Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam expressed her support for the new measures.

The resolution did not specify a timeline for Beijing to implement the new measures, though some lawmakers anticipate that detailed measures will be revealed in the next few months, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong— in which many Christians and Catholics participated— successfully rebuffed the legislature’s efforts last year to pass a controversial bill that would have allowed mainland China to extradite alleged criminals from Hong Kong.

Last weekend, protestors in Hong Kong turned out in large numbers to oppose China’s plans to impose the security laws.

Defying the city’s coronavirus restrictions— which currently prohibit gatherings greater than eight— thousands of protestors turned out on the streets May 24, with police arresting at least 180 and at least six protestors needing to be hospitalized because the police used tear gas and pepper spray, the New York Times reported.

More protests took place May 28 during which over 300 protestors were arrested.

Attendance was lower than the large-scale protests of last year, partly because of the virus, and partly because police are using more assertive tactics to quell protests before they occur, the Times reports. Protestors reportedly smashed at least one storefront and threw objects at police.

The citizens of Hong Kong are largely free to protest, though Hong Kong’s police have come under fire for harsh tactics in suppressing the crowds.

In January, China appointed Luo Huining as the head of the powerful Central Liaison Office in Hong Kong, who in April intensified calls for Communist China to exercise more control in Hong Kong by passing “national security legislation.”

Now that those tightened security laws have passed, the Commuist Chinese government is poised to have more power to suppress the protests in Hong Kong, which it sees as a direct challenge to its power.

Many of Hong Kong’s Catholic leaders, including Auxiliary Bishop Ha Chi-shing, have been publicly supportive of the protests. In April, the Justice and Peace Commission of the Diocese of Hong Kong called for the government to respond to the demands for which the pro-democracy demonstrators have been calling for months, which include an independent inquiry into police tactics.

Zen said although he believes many in the Catholic community in Hong Kong oppose China’s actions, he worries that the Vatican will appoint a new bishop, sympathetic to Beijing, who may not be as insistent on democratic values.

“Even our [Catholic] community is divided, as everybody in Hong Kong must take sides. Even families are split,” he commented.

The Diocese of Hong Kong has been without permanent leadership since January 2019, when Bishop Michael Yeung Ming-cheung died unexpectedly. Since Yeung died, the diocese has been led temporarily by Cardinal John Tong Hon, Yeung’s predecessor, who retired from the post in 2017.

When CNA reported in January that a decision to appoint Father Peter Choy Wai-man as Hong Kong’s next bishop had received final approval in Rome, local clergy and lay Catholics expressed worry to CNA that Father Choy is too sympathetic to the Chinese Communist government, with one source describing him as a “pro-Beijing hawk.”

Zen said he worries that Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin will insist that the next bishop of Hong Kong have “the blessing of Beijing.” 

“I think the majority of the faithful, the silent majority…they think that the authority is wrong. And you can just imagine, in all these years, with all the persecution increasing in China, with all the cruelties, the brutalities of the police on our young people— no word from the Vatican. No word. Not one word.”

“We rely on help from heaven…from the human perspective, we have nothing to hope,” he said.

On May 27, the US Department of State announced that, in light of China’s actions, it no longer recognizes Hong Kong as politically autonomous from China— a designation the region has enjoyed under US law since 1992. The announcement opens the door to possible sanctions against chinese officials and other measures including tariffs on goods coming from Hong Kong.

In addition, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada issued a joint statement calling the move a violation of China’s obligations under the 1997 treaty that turned Hong Kong over to China, the Wall Street Journal reports.  

Last week, Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri introduced a resolution with more than ten cosponsors condemning the proposed law.

Zen told CNA that Beijing’s efforts to undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy have not come as a surprise to him, because Chinese President Xi Jinping had already installed leaders in Hong Kong loyal to him and to the CCP.

“There is no more ‘one country, two systems.’ [China] didn’t dare to say it in those exact words, but the fact is there,” Zen said.

“Now, with the [legislature], they will legitimize all that they are doing.”

Still, Zen expressed some puzzlement at China’s most recent actions, which have led the US to declare that Hong Kong is no longer autonomous, because “everyone knows” that Hong Kong’s system is useful to China.

“Everybody understands that Hong Kong is very useful to China for the exchange of currency and many other things— investment by foreign enterprises…and now, they are ready to destroy everything, and we can do nothing because Hong Kong is a small thing— [China] can crush it as they like,” Zen said.

“I think the international community should feel a moral duty to [protect] this city, where we live according to international values. And also for their own interest, because the destruction of our system in Hong Kong is not good for anybody.”

Similar security rules have been proposed before; in 2003, the Communist government attempted to use Hong Kong’s own legislative and executive councils to pass the anti-sedition measures, but massive protests led lawmakers to abandon the proposal.

Hong Kong’s Basic Law requires the city to pass its own laws against “secessionist, subversive” and other activities that threaten state security. But in 2003, the Hong Kong government started making a similar law but “in a very bad way,” Zen said— the draft of the law was insufficient, and the government allowed only a very brief consultation period.

“We are not against having a law, but we want it to be well formulated. Because the law they were presenting was against all our freedoms,” he said.

The situation is deteriorating after 2003, so there’s no opportunity for Hong Kong’s legislature to create a “good law,” he said.

“We would not accept any law made by a government that does not represent the people,”  Zen insisted.

“Because they promised democratic elections, but they went back on their promises…in this moment there is nothing in view that suggests a real, democratic election. And so I think now Xi Jinping is under pressure, both from the international community and also from inside China— from his enemies in the government— and so Hong Kong is kind of a thorn in his side. And so he just wants to get rid of that.”

The day after Beijing announced its intention to pass the anti-sedition laws, the Diocese of Hong Kong announced the resumption of public Masses amid the continuing coronavirus pandemic.

According to apostolic administrator Cardinal John Tong, weekday public Masses will resume in the diocese June 1, and Sunday public Masses on June 7.

Churches remain limited to half capacity in Hong Kong; Catholics will still have the option of attending Mass online and receiving spiritual communion.

 

Ed Condon contributed to this report.

 

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Australian journalists face court date over Pell trial coverage

May 26, 2020 CNA Daily News 1

CNA Staff, May 26, 2020 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- A judge in the Australian state of Victoria has proposed beginning a trial in November to prosecute journalists and media outlets for violating a court-imposed reporting ban on the trial of Cardinal George Pell in 2018.

Victoria Supreme Court Judge John Dixon said Tuesday that the trial could begin as soon as November 9, but prosecutors and lawyers for the journalists are still disputing the terms of the trial, Reuters reported.

Prosecutors allege that 19 individuals and 21 media outlets assisted in the violation of the gag order by overseas media and are seeking a single trial. Lawyers representing the accused journalists contend that separate allegations need to be heard in individual trials. Penalties for violating court gag orders include fines of up to 100,000 Australian dollars ($66,000) and five years in prison for individuals.

In December 2018, Cardinal Pell was convicted on five charges of sexual abuse of minors by a court in Victoria. His case was heard on appeal, first by the Victoria Court of Appeal, which upheld his convictions before they were overturned by Australian High Court in April this year, freeing Pell after more than a year in prison.

In 2018, Victoria police brought several charges against Pell related to his time as Archbishop of Melbourne and as a priest in the Diocese of Ballarat. The charges were set to be heard in two successive trials, with the Melbourne accusations heard first. At the request of prosecutors, that trial was subject to a sweeping gag order, with media prohibited from reporting on anything to do with the case or even acknowledge that it was underway.

The ban was dropped in February, 2019, after prosecutors abandoned the Ballarat charges, admitting there was not enough evidence to go to trial.

Despite the order, several international outlets, including CNA, carried news of the trial and verdict in 2018, in some cases blocking that coverage from appearing online in Australia in order to comply with the court order.

Domestic media in Australia mostly complied with the court order, though some media outlets reported that an unnamed high-profile individual had been convicted on unreportable charges.

The Herald Sun newspaper ran a December 12 cover story under the headline “CENSORED” which said that “the world is reading a very important story that is relevant to Victorians.”

“The Herald Sun is prevented from publishing details of this significant news,” the front page read. “But trust us, it is a story you deserve to read.”

Coverage like that, according to Victoria prosecutors, amounted to offering support to overseas outlets in contempt of court.

At the time of Pell’s conviction, Judge Peter Kidd, who presided over the initial trial, said that “a number of very important people in the media are facing, if found guilty, the prospect of imprisonment and indeed substantial imprisonment, and it may well be that many significant members of the media community are in that potential position,” for violating the gag order.

On April 15, Victoria County Court held a first hearing in an effort by state prosecutors to bring charges against journalists and news outlets, including some of the largest names in Australian media, including The Age newspaper and several News Corp publications.

The next hearing it set for July.

The state of Victoria has faced sustained criticism for the use of suppression orders by the state’s courts.

Despite an Open Courts Act passed in 2013 aimed at improving judicial transparency, Victorian courts issued more than 1500 suppression orders between 2014-2016.

CNA has previously reported that in 2014, senior police in Victoria discussed using an investigation into Cardinal Pell to distract media attention from serious allegations of corruption in the force.

In a 2014 email exchange, then-Deputy Commissioner Graham Ashton and Charlie Morton, assistant director of media and corporate communications for the Victoria police department, discussed how to respond to a high-profile scandal which would hamper the credibility of Victoria police operations.

In an email dated April 1, 2014, Morton advised Ashton not to make a media appearance in response to the “Lawyer X” scandal, because forthcoming announcements about Cardinal Pell could distract media and public attention.

“The Pell stuff is coming tomorrow and will knock this way off the front page,” Morton wrote to Ashton.

In 2013, Victoria Police opened Operation Tethering, an open-ended investigation into possible crimes by Cardinal Pell, although no victims had come forward against him and there had been no criminal complaints made against him at the time. Although they had found no victims or criminal accusations, in 2015 the program was expanded and put on a more formal footing.

Ashton, is now the Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police. In 2019 he gave evidence at a Royal Commission inquiry into the use of police sources and the Lawyer X scandal, in which criminal defense lawyer Nicola Gobbo was recruited to work as an informant against members of the Calabrian mafia, while she was representing several of them as an attorney.

Much of Gobbo’s work as a lawyer was with Australian members of the Ndrangheta, the Calabrian mafia organization, which has established a deep presence both in Victoria and across the country, with allegations of multi-million dollar bribes to judges and close connections to local Victorian politicians in both political parties.

The link between the Italian and Australian branches of the organization is known to be close and ongoing.

The Victoria police force has been the subject of numerous scandals over the years. In addition to the allegations concerning Gobbo, a 2017 report found that nearly half (46%) of Victoria Police employees believe they would suffer personal repercussions if they reported corruption, with almost one in five saying it would cost them their job.

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Livestream of Mass with Pope Francis on Chinese social media raises censorship questions

May 22, 2020 CNA Daily News 1

Rome Newsroom, May 22, 2020 / 05:34 pm (CNA).- The Vatican revealed this week that Catholics in China were able to use the most popular Chinese state-monitored social media platform, WeChat, to livestream Pope Francis’ daily Mass during the coronavirus pandemic.

An expert on Chinese media has cautioned that the Chinese regime may have had something to gain in granting Chinese Catholics this limited access to the pope.

WeChat is known for its censorship of its more than 1 billion monthly active users. The Chinese government is able to monitor all discussion, content, and user data on the app.

Vatican News released a video on May 20 showing Catholics in China gathered around smartphones and computer monitors placed on home altars or inside of churches praying with Pope Francis’ livestreamed liturgies, which could be accessed via WhatsApp via simultaneous translation into Chinese.

By the time that the video was published, the limited 52-day period in which the livestream was available to Chinese viewers, March 27 to May 18, had already come to an end.

A Chinese Catholic living in Jilin Province confirmed to CNA that the Vatican News website is now available in China both on WeChat and Weibo, often called the Chinese Twitter.

“I have found that social media like Weibo has been very friendly to the Church since the beginning of this year,” she said.

The Holy See and the Chinese government signed a provisional agreement in 2018 on the appointment of bishops in the state-sponsored Church, the terms of which have still not been publicly released. In the wake of the deal, previously excommunicated bishops of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA), which is overseen by the Communist Party, were received into full communion with the Vatican.

Sarah Cook, a senior research analyst who monitors media censorship and religious freedom in China for Freedom House, explained to CNA that the livestream of the pope’s Mass in China could have been the fruit of the ongoing dialogue between the Holy See and the Chinese government.

“This type of engagement for the pope with Chinese believers directly is exactly what the Vatican was hoping to achieve through its rapprochement with the Chinese government,” she said.

“By allowing it, it may be giving Beijing more leverage to obtain what it wants in the future, such as approval of certain bishops or reduced Vatican criticism of ongoing persecution of Catholics in China. So there are good reasons why allowing this kind of relatively innocuous and temporary gesture would be in Beijing’s interests,” Cook told CNA.

Vatican News reported that the number of viewers of Pope Francis’ Mass in China increased daily, reaching more than 10,000 viewers on WeChat before the Vatican stopped livestreaming the Mass.

“If this was something temporary then that might have made it easier for the Chinese government to accept,” Cook said. “Scale may also have been a factor.”

“Ten thousand is still fairly low by Chinese standards,” she added.

China is home to more than 10 million Catholics, with six million registered as members of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, according to official statistics.

“Often the sensitivities surrounding officially recognized religions and even other groups in China are triggered by growing popularity,” Cook said. “My sense is that if the broadcasts had continued and began reaching an even bigger audience, say hundreds of thousands or a million people, then it would have been shut down at some point.”

“Crackdowns on other religious groups and even information sharing or online preaching have continued amid the pandemic,” she added, particularly for Protestants and other persecuted religious groups in China, such as the Falun Gong.

During the coronavirus pandemic, the human rights group Voice of the Martyrs reported that government officials in Shandong Province banned online preaching amid the outbreak, and the Christian non-profit ChinaAid shared a video March 15 of a Protestant church in Jiangsu Province that had been demolished by Chinese authorities.

The Chinese government has also used social media platforms to help monitor and detain Muslims in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

Data showing which WhatsApp users followed the pope’s livestream Mass could be accessed by the Chinese government in the future, Cook acknowledged, while noting that “Catholicism is an approved religion in China and most people don’t run into trouble for attending Mass at a state-sanctioned church.”

“With improving relations between the Chinese government and Vatican, I imagine that the pope is not as sensitive a figure as he previously was. So I don’t imagine people would get in trouble just for watching this,” she said.

Among the government regulations of the state-sanctioned Catholic churches in China is a prohibition on minors under the age of 18 from entering church property.

Cook noted that while children could be seen praying in the Vatican News video, this is “one part of religious regulations that has often slipped through the cracks in the past in terms of enforcement, so that may be the case now.”

A report by the U.S. China Commission in January found that Chinese Catholics suffered “increasing persecution” after the Vatican-China deal. It said the government was “demolishing churches, removing crosses, and continuing to detain underground clergy.” Priests and bishops have reportedly been detained or have gone into hiding.

In February, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican Secretary for Relations with States, met with the Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference. The Holy See press office reported that the meeting was an occasion for “renewing the willingness to continue the institutional dialogue” between the Holy See and the Chinese Communist Party.

The Jesuit magazine La Civiltà Cattolica announced in April that it was launching a version in simplified Chinese.

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, praised the decision to launch the Chinese edition in a letter to La Civiltà Cattolica.

“I can only express from the depths of my heart my warmest best wishes and the fervent hope that your Chinese language edition might become a solid instrument of mutual cultural and scientific enrichment, among all people in search of beauty and truth,” Parolin said.

The first papal liturgy to be viewed over WeChat in China was Pope Francis’ extraordinary Urbi et Orbi blessing on March 27 for the world suffering from the coronavirus pandemic.

Vatican News reported that in China the news that the live broadcast of the pope’s Mass would end on May 18 was “greeted with some suffering and also with some tears.”

While some Catholics in China are sad to lose access to the livestream Mass, the greater problem for most Chinese Catholics is that Catholic churches, seminaries, and all pilgrimage activities in China remain suspended.

China closed churches beginning in January, as the coronavirus outbreak spread throughout the country. But after the nationwide quarantine was eased in March and epicenter Wuhan’s lockdown was lifted on April 8, Asia News reports that Catholic churches were told to remain closed through the end of May by the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.

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Catholic aid groups provide relief to those affected by Cyclone Amphan

May 22, 2020 CNA Daily News 1

CNA Staff, May 22, 2020 / 11:29 am (CNA).- Catholic Relief Services is among the agencies providing aid to those impacted by Cyclone Amphan in Bangladesh and eastern India. The storm killed at least 96, millions were evacuated, and Kolkata was devastated.

The cyclone made landfall in India May 20, and it dissipated the following day. It brought winds of as much at 160 mph, and waves up to 15 feet.

Kolkata, a city of 4.5 million, was without power for at least 14 hours, and its roads were flooded.

“Initially they were not willing to evacuate, because they were weighing between the risk of the cyclone and the invisible risk of Covid-19,” Snigdha Chakroborty, CRS’ Bangladesh country director, told PBS NewsHour May 20 of local residents.

“They do not have income, they do not have homes, they also lost their crops in the field. So basically it a devastating and painful situation that they will have to live with now.”

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>We just received photos of damage caused by <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/CycloneAmphan?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#CycloneAmphan</a> in <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Bangladesh?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#Bangladesh</a>. Please keep everyone impacted in your prayers. We're assessing damage will provide updates on our response asap. <a href=”https://t.co/gr3fhSpXs0″>pic.twitter.com/gr3fhSpXs0</a></p>&mdash; CatholicRelief (@CatholicRelief) <a href=”https://twitter.com/CatholicRelief/status/1263513689530888193?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>May 21, 2020</a></blockquote> <script async src=”https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>

CRS and Caritas have indicated there are immediate needs for shelter, potable water, sanitation, and hygiene.

Ahead of the storm, the groups indicated they had “pre-positioned emergency supplies” and were “supporting efforts to clean evacuation centers and procure critically needed supplies in local markets.”

Archbishop Thomas D’Souza of Calcutta has asked Church officials to open their facilities to those rendered homeless by the cyclone, according to UCA News. The “top priority is to arrange food for so many people who have lost everything,” he told the independent Catholic news source.

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