by Peter Stanford
THE CATHOLIC Church in Hong Kong has given a warm welcome to the draft agreement on the future of the colony which was initialled last week by the British and Chinese governments in Beijing.
Fr Michael Yeung, Director of the Hong Kong Catholic Social Communications Office, told the Catholic Herald that the Church was "pleased" with the agreement which guarantees that "rights and freedoms . . of religious belief will be ensured by law in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region" to be set up after 1997.
The text of the draft agreement also states that "religious organisations and believers may maintain their relations with religious organisations and believers elsewhere, and schools, hospitals and welfare institutions run by religious organisations may be continued".
It goes on to set out that "the relationship between religious organisations in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and those in other parts of the People's Republic of China shall be based on the principles of non-subordination, noninterference and mutual respect".
Fr Yeung stressed that religious freedom was a basic human right which governments must respect. He added that he felt that the Beijing Government should avoid excessive interference in the future administration of Hong Kong
• -•,..nrnc.nfl some reservations about the guarantees for the continuing independence of Hong Kong.
Turning to the question of
relations with Catholics in mainland China, Fr Yeung said that he had no fears of the statecontrolled Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association extending its influence into Hong Kong after 1997. The Patriotic Association was set up in the late 1950s and broke off ties with the Vatican. Those priests who maintained their links with the Holy See were imprisoned as "counter revolutionaries".
Fr Yeung hoped that the tie between China and Hong Kong might eventually help to restore relations between the Vatican and the CCPA.
The Catholic community in Hong Kong, which numbers more than 250,000, has been nervously awaiting the agreement between China and Britain for some time now. In August Bishop John ChengChung Wu of Hong Kong made a public statement setting out his firm conviction that religious freedom "be clearly enshrined, explicitly expressed and effectively guaranteed" in any agreement between the two powers. He also stressed that the Church in Hong Kong would not tolerate any attempt to break its links with the Vatican.
see analysis — page 3