Hong Kong Watch will launch a major new report on threats to freedom of religion or belief in Hong Kong today, which finds that the draconian National Security Law has had a chilling effect on religious believers in the city, including widespread self-censorship in sermons and other religious activities, threats to faith-based schools and the increasing introduction of Beijing’s campaign of ‘Sinicization’ of religion.
The first of its kind, the report, titled Sell Out My Soul: The Impending Threats to Freedom of Religion or Belief in Hong Kong, provides an in-depth analysis and serves as an early warning signal and a wake-up call to the international community to closely monitor further developments in regard to freedom of religion or belief in Hong Kong.
Launched today in the European Parliament in Brussels, the new report will be presented later this month at launch events in Washington, DC, in the Parliament of Canada in Ottawa and the Houses of Parliament in London.
The Foreword to the report is written by Fiona Bruce MP from the United Kingdom and Ambassador Sam Brownback from the United States, in their capacity as Patrons of Hong Kong Watch. Mrs Bruce currently serves as the UK Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for freedom of religion or belief, and Ambassador Brownback was the US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom from 2018-2021.
In their Foreword, Mrs Bruce and Ambassador Brownback write:
“Freedom of religion or belief is about so much more than simply the right to go to a place of worship once a week. … It is, as expressed in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a fully-fledged expression of conscience. Interpreted in this way, this basic and fundamental human right is clearly under increasing and intensifying threat in Hong Kong, as this new and excellent report by Hong Kong Watch details. As Patrons of Hong Kong Watch and as active leaders in the global movement for religious freedom, we endorse this report wholeheartedly and support its recommendations … We totally support Hong Kong Watch’s call for the world to pay attention to Hong Kong, to monitor the impact on religious freedom of the continuous dismantling of overall basic freedoms … Together with our colleagues in similar roles across the globe, we shall be watching Hong Kong – and we will be ready to act when needed.”
Authored by Hong Kong Watch’s co-founder and Chief Executive Benedict Rogers, who has specialised in freedom of religion or belief in Asia for almost three decades, the report is based on first-hand interviews and background conversations with several Christian clergy and laity from Hong Kong from multiple church traditions and denominations, as well as with several scholars and experts who specialise in freedom of religion or belief. It also draws on publicly available sources, including media reports and information published by other organisations, but always corroborated and verified with expert sources.
The report contains several recommendations for the international community, particularly a call to closely monitor upcoming legislation regarding Article 23 of the Basic Law, the crowdfunding law, and other possible legislative changes which might impact freedom of religion or belief.
In particular, the report recommends that:
those governments which have official envoys dedicated to freedom of religion or belief should report annually on the situation of freedom of religion or belief in Hong Kong, as the US State Department already does.
All 42 countries within the International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance (IRFBA) should monitor closely and report regularly on developments in Hong Kong.
The United Kingdom’s Six-Monthly Report annual report on Hong Kong should include the situation of freedom of religion or belief.
The European Union’s annual report on Hong Kong should include the situation of freedom of religion or belief.
The international community should also reiterate the UN Human Rights Committee’s recommendations to the Hong Kong and Chinese governments, in its review of Hong Kong’s obligations under the ICCPR, that the National Security Law and sedition law should be repealed and the authorities should refrain from enforcing them immediately.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief and the Special Rapporteur on the right to education should also pay close attention to the situation in Hong Kong.
Bob Fu, a well-known campaigner for religious freedom in China and President of China Aid, said:
“This is a very objective report based on extensive investigation and research, with a fair, balanced legal and fact-based analysis. Policy-makers and all those who care about religious freedom and human rights should read this report. I hope it will be made available to read in multiple languages. It details how freedom of religion or belief in Hong Kong is being violated and endangered through concrete examples and cases with legal analysis.”
Benedict Rogers said:
“We are pleased to bring this report to the world’s attention. To our knowledge, it is the first substantial report on threats to freedom of religion or belief in Hong Kong, and for that reason we hope it will be widely read and acted upon. Almost all other freedoms in Hong Kong have already been dismantled or undermined, and the erosion of freedom of religion or belief, as this report shows, is already underway, not in dramatic, visible ways but in subtle, insidious but nevertheless consistent and clear ways. We call on the international community to heed the warning signs and act before it is too late.”
The first launch will be held in the European Parliament today, hosted by former Foreign Minister of Poland Anna Fotyga MEP, at which Benedict Rogers and Hong Kong Christian pastor Roy Chan, of Good Neighbour North District Church, now in exile in the United Kingdom, will speak.
The report will be launched in Washington, DC at several events next week, including at the Hudson Institute’s China Centre, led by Miles Yu, former China advisor to previous US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, on 15 November; in Ottawa on 21 November in the Parliament of Canada hosted by Hong Kong Watch Patron Garnett Genuis MP; and in the Houses of Parliament in London on 30 November hosted by our Patron Lord Alton of Liverpool. Further details of each launch will be issued in due course.
Read the entire article at Hong Kong Watch