China’s religious overseers have been gearing up to exert influence over people of faith in Hong Kong, said a report on the website of the rights group International Christian Concern (ICC).
The report said the information came as news of a formal meeting between mainland Chinese bishops, Chinese religious administrators, and the Hong Kong Diocese has been confirmed.
“Reports say that Chinese religious officials hosted the meeting to lecture Hong Kong clergy in the way of the faith – the mainland Chinese way,” read the ICC report.
It added that in October, the Chinese Liaison Office to Hong Kong organized a meeting for Chinese religious officials and clergy to brief the latter on the need to promote “religion with Chinese characteristics.”
The meeting was reportedly monitored over video-conferencing software by China’s State Administration for Religious Affairs, or SARA, and the Chinese Liaison Office.
The ICC report said many suspect that the meeting “is a sign of an impending Chinese encroachment on Hong Kong’s freedom of religion.”
Those involved in the meeting have shared that mainland officials stressed the need for greater “Sinicization” of the faith, a Chinese policy which incorporates the supremacy of the Chinese state and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) into the prerequisites of religion.
The ICC report said communist officials have been trying to sell the idea to Catholics in line with the policy of “enculturation.”
“[T]his justification does not add up, as the CCP has continued to regulate religion across China in an authoritarian way,” said the ICC.
It said that the “erosion of basic rights in Hong Kong continues to trend in the city following the passage of the national security law and the recent ‘Patriots Only’ election.”
The report described the meeting as “a sign of the times in Hong Kong as the autonomy from the CCP and Chinese authoritarian policies is continuing to slip as Hong Kong slides toward greater political unity with Beijing.”
“At the heart of these talks sits Beijing’s main interest, the continued unification of China under Xi Jinping, leaving many to suspect that the freedom of religion will become an increasing target of the CCP as it has been on the mainland,” said the report.