Catholic cardinal warns of possible violence in Hong Kong over democracy protest

August 27, 2013

(Cardinal Joseph Zen (C), an outspoken critic of Beijing, along with other protesters takes part in a demonstration to demand religious freedom in China outside the China Liaison Office in Hong Kong July 11, 2012. REUTERS/Bobby Yip)

The most prominent Catholic in greater China warned on Tuesday of violence in Hong Kong next year as a planned campaign of civil disobedience demanding full democracy possibly sparks a backlash from the government after unnerving Beijing.

Cardinal Joseph Zen said he would join the Occupy Central campaign targeting Hong Kong’s financial district and would happily risk arrest, saying it was a “desperate last resort”.

The 81-year-old former Bishop of Hong Kong said he did not think Beijing would live up to its promises of allowing full democracy in the territory by 2017.

The Hong Kong government and pro-Beijing supporters might try to incite violence to justify a crackdown on a peaceful campaign, he added.

“They may like to provoke some violence, yes, and they may even send people to infiltrate the (protesters). So that’s a danger,” he told Reuters in an interview. “I’m worried we may finish with some violence … Then they have the pretext to crush everything.”

The former British colony returned to Chinese rule on July 1, 1997, with the promise of universal suffrage as an “ultimate aim” in its mini-constitution, making it potentially the first place on Chinese soil to enjoy fully democratic elections.

Read the full story by Greg Torode and James Pomfret here.

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