Hong Kong’s top Catholic cleric, Bishop Stephen Chow, arrived in Beijing on Monday, marking the first visit by a bishop of the former British colony to the Chinese capital in nearly three decades. The trip comes amid increasing signs of new tension between China and the Vatican.
Bishop Chow, along with several senior priests, has been invited to visit Beijing by Bishop Joseph Li Shan. The trip comes just weeks after the Vatican surprisingly announced that China had unilaterally installed a new bishop to Shanghai.
The visit is seen as a significant step in the ongoing dialogue between the Vatican and China, which have been at odds over several issues in recent years, including the appointment of bishops. The two sides signed a provisional agreement in 2018, which aimed to improve relations and pave the way for the appointment of bishops in China. However, the deal has been criticized by some, who say it has failed to improve religious freedoms in China.
Bishop Chow’s visit is also significant in the context of the ongoing protests in Hong Kong. The city has been rocked by pro-democracy protests for over a year, with activists accusing Beijing of eroding the city’s autonomy and cracking down on dissent. The Catholic Church in Hong Kong has been a vocal supporter of the protesters, with Bishop Chow himself speaking out in support of their demands.
The Chinese government has been highly critical of the protests, accusing the demonstrators of being separatists and terrorists. The Vatican, meanwhile, has called for dialogue and peaceful resolution of the crisis.
Despite the potential for tension, Bishop Chow’s visit is being seen as a positive development by many in the Catholic community. The last bishop of Hong Kong to visit Beijing was Bishop John Baptist Wu, who met with then-Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in 1989.
Bishop Chow, who was appointed bishop of Hong Kong in May 2021, is highly respected within the Catholic Church. He has been praised for his work promoting interfaith dialogue and social justice, and is seen as a bridge-builder between the Catholic Church and other religions.
The visit is also significant in the context of China’s growing influence on the global stage. With China’s economic and military power on the rise, many countries are looking to improve their relations with Beijing. The Vatican is no exception, and has been seeking to improve its ties with China in recent years.Hong Kong’s top Catholic cleric, Bishop Stephen Chow, arrived in Beijing on Monday, marking the first visit by a bishop of the former British colony to the Chinese capital in nearly three decades.
However, the growing influence of China has also raised concerns about the country’s human rights record. The Chinese government has been accused of cracking down on religious minorities, including Catholics, Muslims, and Falun Gong practitioners. The Vatican has been critical of these actions, and has called for greater religious freedom in China.