FOR PEOPLE IN Hong Kong the first 10 years of Chinese rule have been "a long series of frustrations," according to Cardinal Joseph Zen Z,e-kiun of Hong Kong.
"On the surface, everything is like before," Cardinal Zen told Catholic News Service during a trip to Washington.
But, he added, Chinese authorities "are not keeping their promises."
He said that although universal suffrage is contained in the Basic Law, the miniconstitution that governs Hong Kong until 2047, Chinese officials ruled out direct elections of the Hong Kong chief executive in 2007 and the special administrative region's legislature in 2008.
He claimed that the Chinese authorities were "directed by fear".
"They are full of fear about Hong Kong people because we protest," he said. "For Communists, anyone who protests is the enemy." "From the very beginning of the handover. we were pushed to the position of opposition," Cardinal Zen said.
He said the first 10 years of "one country, two systems" the slogan used to describe China's relationship with Hong Kong were wasted with continuous quarrelling initiated by the Chinese government.
During those years, the Church in Hong Kong "tried to be the voice for the voiceless," he said.
As an example, the cardinal pointed out how the Church had taken the government to court during a row over Catholic schools.
Under a new law, scheduled to take effect in 2010, Church officials could only appoint 60 per cent of the school management. The court upheld the law, but the Church plans to appeal.
Cardinal Zen said that the Church had led the fight against the implementation of a government security law, which aimed to protect mainland China from the more liberal aspects of Hong Kong's constitution.
In 2003, on the anniversary of Britain's handover of Hong Kong, Cardinal Zen led about 10,000 Christians in a prayer service before half a million people marched to protest against the security law. The cardinal did not join the march, but went to a nearby church to pray.
The cardinal told CNS that a Communist friend of his told him later that, after that date, he had become classified as an "enemy."
He said the Chinese government had informed him that he needed an invitation to visit mainland China. In 2004 he visited Shanghai for three days and in 2005 he was part of a large delegation of leaders of six religions who visited mainland China. The cardinal said he was touring the United States and Canada to talk to Catholics of Chinese descent about the situation in China and Hong Kong and about relations between the Vatican and China.
He also spoke to them about a letter Pope Benedict XVI is writing to Chinese Catholics.
Later, at a Mass in the Crypt Church of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, he urged those present including dozens of members of the local Chinese Catholic community to pray that the letter would be well received.
Hong Kong reverted to Chinese control and became a special administrative region of China in 1997.