Religious leaders join condemnation of Beijing's new national security law for Hong Kong

Hong Kongers are fearful of their future under Beijing control(Photo: Unsplash/Han Min T)

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, and Church of England bishops are among the religious leaders to have added their names to an international letter signed by hundreds of leaders around the world condemning Beijing's new national security law in Hong Kong.

China's legislation has sparked global outrage, with an international coalition of over 700 parliamentarians and dignitaries from over 36 countries uniting against Beijing's "flagrant breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration". 

The coalition is being led by former Hong Kong Governor Lord Patten and former UK Foreign Secretary, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, and spans the political spectrum, with dozens of current and former British parliamentarians from across parties adding their names. 

International signatories include former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, and US Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.

The Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Rev Nick Baines, the Bishop of Coventry, the Rt Rev Christopher Cocksworth, Lord Alton of Liverpool, Fiona Bruce MP and former Cabinet Minister, the Rev Jonathan Aitken, are among the Christians to have signed the statement.

It reads: "We, the co-signed, write to express grave concerns about the unilateral introduction of national security legislation by Beijing in Hong Kong.

"This is a comprehensive assault on the city's autonomy, rule of law, and fundamental freedoms. The integrity of one-country, two-systems hangs by a thread.

"It is the genuine grievances of ordinary Hong Kongers that are driving protests. Draconian laws will only escalate the situation further, jeopardising Hong Kong's future as an open Chinese international city.

"If the international community cannot trust Beijing to keep its word when it comes to Hong Kong, people will be reluctant to take its word on other matters.

"Sympathetic governments must unite to say that this flagrant breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration cannot be tolerated."

Lord Patten said the statement showed a growing and widespread international outrage at the Chinese government's imposition of national security legislation in Hong Kong.

"The breadth of support, which spans all political parties and four continents, reflects both the severity of the situation and ongoing unified international support for the principle of one-country, two-systems," he said. 

The letter comes as US President Donald Trump removed Hong Kong's special status in America in retaliation for Beijing's interference in the region and threatened sanctions for officials who undermine freedom. 

"Our actions will be strong, our actions will be meaningful," he said. 

The head of Open Doors USA, David Curry, has warned of harmful ramifications for religious freedom in Hong Kong if the international community fails to speak up for citizens.

"It's concerning, when you consider how much surveillance and pressure is being put on the church of China, to see Hong Kong Christians facing these same restrictions," he said.

"We are very concerned by China's restrictions on religious liberty and human rights. I believe that China is rapidly developing, implementing and exporting a blueprint of persecution that will drive further restrictions on the free practice of faith throughout the region and even the world."

He added: "It's possible that in just a short time there will be no true freedom of religion in regions controlled by China."