HONG KONG – In a high-walled Art Deco villa in the Hong Kong suburbs of Kowloon, the Vatican operates an unofficial diplomatic mission, its only political outpost of any kind in China.
The mission keeps such a low profile that it isn’t listed in the Roman Catholic Church’s formal directory of every priest and property in the city. The two monsignors who staff the outpost have no formal standing with Beijing or the Hong Kong government, and they don’t conduct official work, not even meeting Hong Kong officials. The tenuous foothold is a sign of the delicate position in China of the world’s largest Christian denomination, many of whose members in Hong Kong staunchly support the city’s democracy movement.
And now the mission — and the Church as a whole in Hong Kong — is coming under mounting pressure as Beijing moves to extinguish opposition voices in the city under a new national security law.
In May, two Chinese nuns who work at the mission were arrested by mainland authorities during a visit home to Hebei province, according to three Catholic clerics with knowledge of the matter. The nuns, in their 40s, were detained for three weeks before being released into house arrest without being charged. They are forbidden to leave the mainland, according to one of the clerics. Meanwhile, Western diplomats say, Chinese security agents have stepped up surveillance of the mission in recent months.Get Everything You Need For Church! Supplies Available Now!