Former bishop of Hong Kong and vocal opponent of Pope Francis’ rapprochement with China, Cardinal Joseph Zen, has been named this year’s winner of the Wei Jingsheng Chinese Democracy Champion Prize.
Cardinal Zen, known for being outspoken on issues regarding human rights, political freedom, and religious liberty, “has always firmly supported the Hong Kong democratic movement and strongly opposed communist interference in the missionary activities and religious freedom of the Church,” according to the Wei Jingsheng Foundation, which gives out the prize.
It said Cardinal Zen has not only spoken out against the erosion of civil liberties in Hong Kong over the years but has also supported its people in fighting for genuine universal suffrage. This year he again called on everyone to support Hong Kong’s people in protesting against an extradition bill that would have allowed the sending of criminal suspects to mainland China, the award committee said.
“He has devoted his whole life to caring for Catholics in China and made the sincerest appeals for the well-being of the general public, with most practical actions,” it added.
“Our award this year to Cardinal Zen is also an award to the people of Hong Kong who refused to bow down their noble heads,” the award panel said.
The annual award is named after exiled Chinese dissident and pro-democracy activist Wei Jingsheng, who has dedicated his life to opposing China’s communist government.
The prize, awarded on Dec. 5 each year since 2004, is given to those who the award committee judges has made great contributions to the cause of Chinese democracy.
Cardinal Zen was also rewarded the Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom from the Washington-based Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in January of this year.