DAILY CATHOLIC     WEDNESDAY     June 16, 1999     vol. 10, no. 116

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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Residency Rights Revoked from Those Born in Mainland China

          HONG KONG, JUN 15 (ZENIT).- According to the international agency "Fides," in his Pastoral Letter for 1999-2000, Cardinal John the Baptist Wu strongly criticizes the government's position on residency laws in Hong Kong. The Letter, issued on June 6 and entitled 'God Is Love,' warns that the government's decision will "shake the foundations of the family" and raise doubts locally and internationally about the Chinese central government's promise of "one country, two systems, with a high degree of autonomy."

          According to the Basic Law, the Territory's mini-Constitution, all children born to Hong Kong citizens have a right to residency in Hong Kong, regardless of their birthplace. In recent months, concerned by the flood of immigrants from China, government police attempted to expel dozens of children and wives of Hong Kongers. The Court of Final Appeal, however, ruled that this expulsion is unjust.

          In response, the government has requested the Standing Committee of the National People's Assembly to re-interpret the Basic Law in regard to immigration. The government's decision has drawn criticism from the Territory's juridical associations because it undermines Hong Kong's judicial autonomy, guaranteed by the Basic Law, and opens a precedent for China's interference with life in the Territory.

          The government's position is motivated by economic pragmatism, "Fides" believes. Although this is not confirmed, the agency estimates that 1.67 million people are now eligible for right of residency and this would cost the Special Administrative Region (SAR) an additional expenditure of $91.6 billion in ten years.

          In his Pastoral Letter, Cardinal Wu recalls that in the 1950s and 1960s, Hong Kong welcomed refugees from the mainland who were fleeing from Communism. "Faced in turn today with the question of children born to Hong Kong parents in the Motherland, how can we harden our hearts, look on with indifference and lack of humanity, and use 'interpretation' to deny them hope?" The Cardinal assures the government that the Church and humanitarian organizations in Hong Kong are ready to cope with the difficulties caused by the new arrivals.

          Cardinal Wu, who has been Bishop of the Territory since 1975, supports Hong Kong's judicial independence. "The present question of the right of residency belongs within the competence of Hong Kong's autonomy. Asking for a reinterpretation from the Standing Committee of the National People's Assembly cannot help but damage the foundation of the SAR's autonomy, shake the foundations of the Hong Kong family, raise doubts in people's minds about the central government's promise of 'one country, two systems with a high degree of autonomy,' and undermine the confidence of the international community towards Hong Kong."

          Foreign missionaries and humanitarian organizations have sided with the Cardinal. In a letter to "Fides," Italian Father Adelio Lambertoni of PIME stated, "We would like to express our wholehearted support and gratitude to Cardinal Wu for speaking in such an uncompromising and courageous manner. His words are that much more remarkable since the Cardinal is known for his prudence and reluctance to intervene in public affairs."

          In a related story, ten years after the Tiananmen Square massacre, one of the leaders of the uprising, Wang Dan, says that China has regressed even farther in political liberty.

          "There is less political liberty and respect for human rights in China today than there was ten years ago," said 34 year old Wang Dan.

          "On the political level, there is evident regression. In 1988, for example, when I was a student in Peking, I could move around and discuss political issues with my friends, and speak openly about the political situation," recalled the uprising's leader. "At present, however, this is forbidden. A few days ago, a friend of mine was arrested and mistreated for collecting signatures for a petition."

          The petition, organized by Wang Dan, called for a revision of the "counter-revolutionary rebellion" sentence given to the '89 movement. The petition succeeded in obtaining 100,000 signatures around the world. By infiltrating the information barriers in China, it got over 1,000 signatures in Beijing.

          According to Shen Tong, another exiled student leader, there is economic freedom in China, but not political. "The Chinese will live in fear until liberties become legal rights."

          Wang Dan hopes that improvement in the political realm and in human rights can be achieved through Internet, which could spread the dissidents' point of view in continental China.

          According to data provided by the Hong Kong Information Center on Human Rights, during the months preceding the anniversary, as a preventive measure, the Chinese police detained some 120 persons throughout the national territory and arrested 7 persons on June 3 and 4, among whom is a Protestant who wanted to go into a church in Beijing to pray for the victims. On June 4, two persons were arrested in Tiananmen Square for distributing pamphlets. The families of the 1989 victims visited their graves and lit candles at home in their memory.

          On June 4, in the afternoon, 70,000 people gathered in Hong Kong's Victoria Park for a Vigil in memory of the victims. Wang Dan participated by telephone, and requested that the students who died in the name of democracy not be forgotten.

          Last month the police intercepted a letter written by Zhao Zi Yang, former secretary general of the party, which has been suppressed because of its affinity to the student movement. After this, the police reinforced its vigilance over the former party official who is under house arrest. The letter made reference to the lack of democracy in the country. ZE99061402 and ZE99061504

Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

June 16, 1999       volume 10, no. 116


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