Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun from Hong Kong has been chosen to receive the “Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom” for his role in furthering the cause of fundamental human rights. Awarded by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, the Cardinal was honored with the Freedom Medal on January 28, 2019.
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Honoring Cardinal Zen
“Cardinal Zen has given voice to those denied religious liberty in China and has opposed the collusion of the Vatican and CCP on the matter of ecclesiastical appointments…. [The foundation] stands in solidarity with all those suffering for their faith and acts of conscience in the People’s Republic of China,” Marion Smith, Executive Director of the foundation, said in a statement (Victims of Communism).
The cardinal has been very vocal against inhumane actions of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), including its brutal crackdown of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, the unrelenting persecution of Falun Gong practitioners, and attacks on personal freedoms. Since 2002, he has taken an active role in pro-democracy activism in Hong Kong.
Cardinal Zen is not the first religious figure to receive the freedom medal. Romanian bishop Laszlo Tokes, Vietnamese priest Nguyen Van Ly, and Pope John Paul II have all been awarded the medal in the past. Chinese human rights activists Wei Jingsheng and Chen Guangcheng have also been recipients of the award.
Signed into existence by U.S. President Bill Clinton in 1993, this Washington-based foundation is devoted to commemorating the 100 million fallen victims of communist regimes worldwide. The foundation awards the Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom to people who have a history of opposing communism and promoting free speech and democracy.
Persecution of Christians
When the Vatican signed the historic deal with the CCP last year allowing the Chinese regime to dictate who is a “real Christian,” Cardinal Zen was one of the first people to oppose it. He realized that Beijing would use the deal to target “unofficial Christians” who refuse to follow a Sinicized Christianity and persecute them.
“This is an atheistic government which wants to suppress the church more than ever… The Chinese government will succeed in eliminating the underground church with the help of the Vatican. Now that it is strengthening its suppression of religions, how could you think this will lead to a good agreement? Just like St. John the Baptist negotiated with King Herod, how could this be a good outcome? To say that the agreement is a good thing is very superficial,” the cardinal said in a statement (UCA News).
The CCP is reportedly forcing underground priests to give away their money, is harassing their loved ones, sending them to prison, and even killing some of them in order to put pressure on the entire Christian community to cave in and accept the CCP’s version of Christianity. Sadly, this seems to be working.
“I visited China as an MEP [member of European Parliament] attending the WTO (World Trade Organization) Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong and had the privilege of attending daily Mass in an old Portuguese Church in Guangzhou… The priest told me that although they had reasonable freedom there (a Western enclave), it was very different in many parts of the country where persecution was a reality,” Kathy Sinnott, the organizer of Ireland’s pro-life “Rosary on the Coasts,” said in a statement (Catholic Citizens).
According to the Vatican’s China deal, the CCP has the right to nominate bishops to the Catholic Church in China.