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China Crticizes Hong Kong Cardinal-Elect for 'Interference' with Politics

Chinese officials are dissatisfied with the appointment of the Bishop of Hong Kong as cardinal by Vatican, criticizing the bishop’s interference in politics as China-Vatican diplomatic dialogue remain
( [email protected] ) Feb 24, 2006 01:43 PM EST

Chinese officials are dissatisfied with the appointment of the Bishop of Hong Kong as cardinal by Vatican, criticizing the bishop’s interference in politics.

"We have taken note that Joseph Zen was appointed as a cardinal by the Vatican," said Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao at a routine briefing, according to Agence France Presse (AFP). "We advocate that religious figures should not interfere with politics."

Bishop Joseph Zen of the Diocese of Hong Kong was appointed by Vatican as one of the 15 new cardinals on Wednesday. As China-Vatican diplomatic dialogue remains in deadlock, many suggested the selection of Hong Kong cardinal has showed the Pope’s priority for China. Zen may serve as a bridge between the Vatican and Beijing, sources say.

Liu said Beijing's position on refraining from establishing diplomatic ties with Rome had not changed because of the appointment, AFP reported.

The pro-democracy Zen is known for his willingness and boldness to challenge the Chinese Communist Party on many issues, particularly religious freedom, both in Hong Kong and on the mainland.

Zen believes that through rebuilding the relationship between Vatican and China, China’s millions of underground Catholics can be brought under the wing of Vatican and be able to enjoy higher degree of religious freedom. A church source says Zen has begun making close contact with China's underground church when he taught at mainland Chinese seminaries between 1989 and 1996.

According to an interview with CNN, Zen argued that he did not involve the politics for himself in response to China’s critics.

Zen said there are two types of politics. Clergy should not be involved in "power politics" - forming parties and running for election - he said. However, the other type of politics is "the participation in the common things of society."

"The second kind of politics should be the duty of everybody, of all citizens," he said.