Catholics in New York mounted a protest outside China’s consulate in New York City on September 22, which was the first day of Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to the U.S. He is expected, like Pope Francis and President Obama, to address the United Nations this week.
Most of the protesters are Chinese Catholics who are concerned about the status of the right of religious expression in China. "Our action is to show our solidarity to the Christian brothers and sisters in China," Xu Kewang, one of the Chinese Catholics, told ucanews.com. Among the actions taken recently by the Chinese state was the forced removal of more than 1,200 church crosses in Zhejiang since late 2013. The government in Zhejiang province are also cracking down on church leaders, human rights activists, and lawyers who have sought to put the government campaign to an end. Authorities in the province also plan to introduce punishments for so-called offenses carried out by Christians. There are approximately 2 million Catholics in Zhejiang.
Bearing placards demanding the release of Catholic clergy currently imprisoned by the Chinese government, the protesters are demanding an end to religious persecution. Among the Catholic clerics so imprisoned is Bishop James Su Zhimin of Baoding. "Our protesting group is just a small one because some Chinese parishioners are timid. They fear retaliation when they return to China," Xu said.
Bishop Zhimin has been missing since 1997 and is one of the 20 dissidents and religious figures featured in the "Free China's Heroes" campaign spearheaded by Sen. Marco Rubio, who leads a congressional commission on China. Currently, there are approximately 1,300 political and religious prisoners detained in China, according to a database compiled by the commission. Human rights organizations are calling on President Obama to press the Chinese president to release prisoners of conscience.
Chinese Catholics in the United States are happy to greet Pope Francis on his apostolic visitation to Washington, New York, and Philadelphia. "We are happy to have the chance to see the pope. But we will not make an appeal to him. It is not necessary. We know he is concerned about China," Xu said. However, many were disturbed the decision this year by Cardinal Archbishop Timothy Dolan to shutter St. Joseph’s parish in Manhattan, which had long ministered to Chinese immigrants.
Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.