CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 11 November 2017

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Approaching China with healthy realism

HONG KONG (UCAN): Bishop Michael Yeung Ming-cheung, the new bishop of Hong Kong, has described his approach to dealing with China as one of healthy realism that must consider ongoing talks between the Vatican and Beijing.
 
The 71-year-old Bishop Yeung was keen to remind people that he is neither a diplomat nor engaged in Vatican-Beijing negotiations and added that he would not rock the boat in terms of relations between the Church and China.
 
“If I was not the bishop of Hong Kong and I was just a priest, maybe I will join in a lot of demonstrations. But as a bishop of Hong Kong, people will see me differently. I have to think about the Vatican-Sino relations,” the bishop said 
 
“I don’t want to rock the boat. If there is any possibility to maintain the dialogue, I would by all means—if it is possible,” he said.
 
Bishop Yeung and his predecessor, John Cardinal Tong Hon, who stepped down in July at the age of 78, have been criticised in some circles for not speaking out enough about issues affecting Catholics in China, among them the fate of bishops and priests who have been unlawfully detained or placed under house arrest, as well as official anti-religion campaigns such as the cross removals and church demolitions in the province of Zhejiang and elsewhere.
 
Bishop Yeung believes there should always be room left in such situations. 
 
“In Chinese, there is a saying ‘you never chase someone into a cul-de-sac’ because there is no place for him or her to get through and then he will come back and then you will get into a fight,” he said.
 
“I try to view such issues as a local problem, not to escalate it so it becomes a top political issue,” he said. 
 
“If the Wenzhou government is tearing down crosses and if it is just in Wenzhou then this is a local problem. And if it is one church, a Protestant church, then you should keep it small and manageable,” he said. 
 
The bishop claimed that not many Catholic churches were targeted by the cross removal and church demolition campaign.
 
Bishop Yeung said the Chinese government is reluctant to lose face. “If you say you fight against it, then they will say ‘all right let’s have a fight,’” he said.
 
He observed that the China Church faces a three-level situation: the government, the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA) and the Church.
 
“The CCPA actually (works) as a bridge between the government and the Church. The government will not deal with the so-called Bishops Conference in China (which is also not sanctioned by the Holy See and is a Party run organisation), they tell the Patriotic Association what to do,” he said.
 
Bishop Yeung stressed that the Catholic Church is not a political organisation, but if a situation arises which goes against social justice and Catholic teaching, then the Church should speak up.
 
The bishop also took the opportunity to refute media suggestions that claim he has urged people to avoid events that commemorate the Tiananmen Square Massacre which saw the violent suppression of peaceful student-led protests on 4 July 1989.
 
“For June 4, I feel very sad. I have been to the annual demonstrations (in Victoria Park) quite a few times. But after 28 years, I ask myself what else can I do?” he said.
 
“To give June 4 fair judgment, I think is not a problem. It is written in history,” he said. “But if you, at the same time, say finish up the one-party state, there is a saying that the Chinese have: ‘you are asking the tiger to give its skin.’”

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