Report: Hong Kong Cardinal to risk arrest in protest

Retired Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen says he will be risking arrest by Chinese authorities Wednesday, joining leaders in the months-long Occupy protests there who are handing themselves over in a bid to stop violence against the protesters.

According to reports by Hong Kong public broadcaster RTHK Tuesday, Zen said he would be joining three of the Occupy group leaders in turning themselves in.

“I’m prepared to be jailed, which is the strongest and most sincere proof of the unfairness of the system in Hong Kong,” Zen said, according to a translation of the report by the Hong Kong Economic Journal.

The Occupy protests in Hong Kong have been ongoing since September and have seen tens of thousands take to the streets for a variety of objectives, primarily related to protests over China's alleged control of the election of Hong Kong's chief executive.

The protests took a more violent turn this past weekend as police forcefully stopped demonstrators from surrounding government offices with pepper spray and water cannons.

Three of the Occupy movement leaders held a press conference Tuesday, announcing their intent to turn themselves into police in hopes of stemming the violence.

“We can see that some frontline police officers seem to be out of control,” said University of Hong Kong professor Benny Tai, one of the three, according to The Guardian.

“How much more violence will there be?" Tai asked. "Our call to retreat now is out of love for the occupiers. At this moment we should all protect ourselves and leave this very dangerous place."

Zen, who retired as the bishop of Hong Kong in 2009, has been a vocal critic of the Chinese government's policies in Hong Kong and Chinese treatment of Christians.

In a brief interview NCR interview in Rome Nov. 19, Zen said the Chinese had recently "intensified the persecution" of Christians, saying they had demolished churches and even taken crosses away from believers.

"There's not much we can hope for immediately" in way of improving treatment of Christians in China, he said then.

[Joshua J. McElwee is NCR Vatican correspondent. His email address is Follow him on Twitter: @joshjmac.]

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