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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 May, 2004, 07:13 GMT 08:13 UK
HK Catholic leader visits China
Bishop Joseph Zen
Bishop Zen is an outspoken critic of Beijing
The head of Hong Kong's Catholic Church has visited his hometown of Shanghai at the invitation of mainland authorities.

Bishop Joseph Zen, who was banned from China in 1998, reportedly met Shanghai's Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian during the three-day trip last week.

Bishop Zen has been an outspoken critic of China's suppression of Catholics loyal to the Vatican, and has called for democratic reform in Hong Kong.

He said he hoped his trip marked the start of a dialogue with China.

China only allows its Catholics to worship in state-sanctioned churches, and bans all contact with the Vatican.

But it has allowed Hong Kong's 300,000 Catholics to practise their faith freely, in accordance with the high degree of autonomy promised under the territory's mini-constitution.

Nevertheless, Bishop Zen is the first head of Hong Kong's Catholics to visit the mainland since Hong Kong's handover from Britain in 1997.

"I appreciate the sincerity and friendliness the (mainland authorities) have shown and I hope this is the first step towards more communication. At least trust still exists between us," he told the South China Morning Post.

"They said there were no conditions attached to the visit, and I made it clear that I am not going to be silenced and will continue to speak out after I come back," he was reported as saying.




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