A Christian pastor in Hong Kong has been summoned by mainland authorities who told him not to preach to Chinese Christians, heightening concerns about the erosion of Hong Kong’s freedoms and autonomy after a new national security bill was passed into law last week.
The Reverend Philip Woo, leader of the Christian Church of Chinese Ministry and a charity called International Tin Lang Ministry, said he was told he had violated Chinese religious laws by posting an online message calling on mainland Christians to come to Hong Kong for training.
Woo says he was summoned to Shenzhen for “talks” with the State Administration of Religious Affairs on July 1, the same day China passed a sweeping new National Security Law. Two SARA officials from Futian District gave him a written notice telling him to cease his “illegal activities.”
A notice sent to Woo said: “According to an investigation, you have committed the following illegal deeds: since 2013, without the consent of relevant authorities, you posted messages online to assemble Christians in mainland China to receive Christian training in Hong Kong. Name of website: www.heavenlyfood.org.”
The officials told Woo to stop posting such messages and preaching to mainland students in Hong Kong, adding that such activities violated the country’s Regulations on Religious Activities of Foreigners in China. The law bars foreign nationals from establishing religious organisations or proselytizing within China, but the officials said that it also applies to activities in Hong Kong.
Woo told Ming Pao that he was not the only Hong Kong Christian pastor summoned to Shenzhen for such “talks.”
Woo posted a Facebook message on Monday morning reporting that Hong Kong churches have been told to check all worshippers’ identities. Those carrying exit-entry permits used by mainlanders travelling to Hong Kong should not be allowed to take part in church services, Woo said.
Also on Monday, Woo told Commercial Radio his church had been organising activities for mainland Christians every year. “We’ve done it every year and have never had any problems,” Woo said. He also revealed that Shenzhen authorities approached him and his colleagues in Shenzhen at the end of June.
The National People’s Congress Standing Committee on July 1 passed a new national security bill that for the first time outlines Hong Kong’s “responsibility” to maintain national security. The new law has sparked concerns over the erosion of Hong Kong’s freedoms and the “one country, two systems” framework.