Christians in Hong Kong protested outside Beijing's liaison office there Sunday, urging the Chinese authorities to respect religious freedoms following President Xi Jinping’s recent insistence that religious groups 'devote themselves' to his reforms, reports the South China Morning Post.
Cardinal Joseph Zen Zekiun, the former Bishop of Hong Kong, joined about 50 protestors at the rally. In a sermon he told them: 'oppressors of Christians are still using the way of thugs. We can't just watch on the side. If we don’t speak out, we are the accomplices.
'We want [China's] leadership to seriously look into the barbaric actions used to breach religious freedom and to guarantee the rights of citizens to personal safety.'
The protestors were responding to President Xi Jinping's address at a national conference on religions in Beijing that ended on Saturday. Xi said religious groups 'must adhere to the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC), and support the socialist system and socialism with Chinese characteristics'.
He added that religious groups should 'merge religious doctrines with Chinese culture, abide by Chinese laws and regulations, and devote themselves to China's reform and opening up drive and socialist modernization in order to contribute to the realization of the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation'.
His government has held a long campaign to remove crosses from church buildings and sometimes demolish churches. In a recent incident a church leader's wife was killed trying to prevent a church demolition by a state-backed construction team. The Hong Kong protestors say authorities have forcibly removed crosses from over 2,000 churches in Zhejiang Province since 2014 – from 50 places of worship in the first three months of 2016, they claim.