Online Petition Opposing Vatican Deal with China Targeted in Chinese Cyberattack

ICC Note: Chinese hackers based in Tianjin have targeted an online petition initiated by Catholics in Hong Kong who oppose the proposed Vatican deal with China. The petition website had been under a cyberattack but resumed service hours later. Beijing and the Vatican are about to ink a deal over the appointment of bishops which critics fear will undermine the existence of the underground Church. Many influential Catholics have voiced concerns and asked people to continue to pray for the persecuted Church in China.

02/15/2018 Hong Kong (Hong Kong Free Press) – A group of influential Catholics have said that cyber attackers from China have targeted their petition opposing a potential deal between the Vatican and the Chinese government.

A statement said that, since Wednesday afternoon, their petition website had been under a distributed denial-of-service (DDOS) attack, and the internet protocol addresses of the attackers pointed to Tianjin, China. The page resumed normal operations at around 12:30pm on Thursday.

“We will not be cowed into silence by such [an] attack, and we will never stop voicing out for the Church,” the statement said, as it condemned “cowardly acts.”

“Please join the petition, and continue to pray for the persecuted Church in China.”

China and Vatican are reportedly close to a deal over the appointment of bishops after several years of negotiation.

Fifteen major Catholic figures wrote to bishops across the world saying that the Chinese government should play no part in the selection of bishops. The petitioners said that the moral integrity of the seven “illicitly ordained” Chinese bishops was “questionable.”

As of Thursday afternoon, more than 1,600 people had signed the petition.

While the Vatican maintains the global right to appoint bishops, Beijing has appointed its own through the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA) – the country’s party-controlled official church. China has also been destroying crosses and churches across the country.

If a deal is reached, it could lead to the re-establishment of diplomatic relations, which were severed in 1951. The agreement is also expected to give recognition to seven Beijing-appointed bishops in what would be a significant concession on the part of the Holy See in its long-running standoff with the Communist Party.

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