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01/03/2022 Hong Kong (International Christian Concern) – New information has confirmed what many Hong Kong observers have expected – the Chinese mainland’s religious overseers have been gearing up to exert influence over people of faith in Hong Kong. This insight comes as news of a formal meeting between mainland Chinese bishops, Chinese religious administrators, and the Hong Kong Diocese has been confirmed. Reports say that Chinese religious officials hosted the meeting to lecture Hong Kong clergy in the way of the faith – the mainland Chinese way.

On October 31st, the Chinese Liaison Office to Hong Kong organized a meeting for Chinese religious officials and clergy to brief the Hong Kong clergy on the need to promote “religion with Chinese characteristics” in Hong Kong. A phrase regularly used by the mainland’s State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA). This meeting was monitored over video-conferencing software by the SARA and the Chinese Liaison Office, both of whom had remained relatively quiet in Hong Kong’s religious affairs until recently. While the meeting had concluded without any demands from the mainland’s religious officials, many suspect that it is a sign of an impending Chinese encroachment on Hong Kong’s freedom of religion.

Those involved in the meeting have shared that mainland officials stressed the need for greater ‘Sinicization’ of the faith, a Chinese policy that incorporates the supremacy of the Chinese state and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) into the prerequisites of religion. The CCP has tried to sell this policy to Catholics as in line with the Catholic policy of ‘enculturation,’ the intentional incorporation of local culture with faith. However, this justification does not add up, as the CCP has continued to regulate religion across China in an authoritarian way.

The erosion of basic rights in Hong Kong continues to trend in the city following the passage of the national security law and the recent ‘Patriots Only’ election. While this meeting may have concluded peacefully, it is a sign of the times in Hong Kong as the autonomy from the CCP and Chinese authoritarian policies is continuing to slip as Hong Kong slides toward greater political unity with Beijing. At the heart of these talks sits Beijing’s main interest, the continued unification of China under Xi Jinping, leaving many to suspect that the freedom of religion will become an increasing target of the CCP as it has been on the mainland.

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