Joseph Cardinal Zen’s speech at the Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom ceremony by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation —
I quote from Isaiah (61. 1), “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners”.
In human history there were always the poor, the prisoners, the oppressed.
The industrial revolution was unfortunately accompanied by an upsurge of wild capitalism. The capitalists, in possession of the means of production, exploited the proletariat, kept them under slavery.
Carl Marx came on the scene as a prophet, he preached the liberation through class struggle, that means bloody revolution. The medicine was worse than the illness. Violence was never solution to any problem. The problem is in human hearts: selfishness, greed. Without a loving heart any system is doomed to become inhuman.
The communists preach equality, they preach fraternity, but they destroy the foundation of equality and brotherhood which resides in our human dignity rooted in our common origin from Our Father in Heaven.
All the communist countries, to our knowledge, achieved only an equal poverty for everybody, their main exports are human beings fleeing from the Communist Paradise (before they abandoned Marxism).
I have not suffered personally from the Chinese Communist. I came to Hong Kong in 1948 (to join the Salesian Novitiate), the communist took power only in 1949, the following year. My relatives suffered as all families suffered under that inhuman regime especially my brother-in-law, husband of my elder sister, the most sweet person. One day they came to arrest him without saying a word, without saying of which crime he was accused. They sent him to work for the construction or repair of railway, work under the sun. They even shaved his head. After a couple of months they released him, sent him back home, again without any explanation.
My younger brother, a brilliant student at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, gradated in naval engineering. But they refused to give him the diploma and sent him to work far away from Shanghai to Fujian, a very poor place. They said, because your brother is being trained as an agent in Hong Kong.
The so-called dictatorship of the Proletariat, which is supposed to be provisional according to Marx, turned out to be the Communist Empire.
I had opportunity to visit my native city, Shanghai in 1974 (after 26 years of absence) before the end of the Cultural Revolution. We did not know why they opened the door ajar for Hong Kong people who dare to go. It was beyond imagination! The whole country was a concentration camp!
All religions disappeared. The churches were either closed with seals or turned into factories, go downs or other uses (my parish church was a “people’s club” where people could get some simple food and recreational facilities).
With the open policy things were very different. I applied to be allowed to teach in the Seminary of Shanghai in 1984, and the permission came in late 1988. I went to Shanghai in the autumn of 1989, right after the Tiananmen Square event, when everybody was getting out of China. They treated me very kindly. Later they invited me to teach also in other seminaries: Xian, Wuhan, Shijiazhuang, Beijing, Shenyang. I could teach in China, 6 months per year, for 7 years (1989-1996).
They treated me very kindly but I could see how they ill-treat and humiliate our people in our Catholic Church: harassment to those underground (coming out from prison or labour camp after more than 20 years, surviving their many companions in prison), no respect even for the Bishops in the official Church (similarly survivors of prison and labour camp).
Today of the true Marxism remains very little, but the atheist, persecutor, distatorship remains intact.
You know the recent tightening of control on all religions in China. You know also the situation in Hong Kong of the promised high degree of autonomy very little remains. Hong Kong is soon to become just one of the cities in China.
I am here today to receive gratefully the medal not in my honor, because I had almost paid nothing for my freedom, but for those who really suffered a lack of freedom in China and in Hong Kong.
I receive the medal for those who deserve it but cannot come here to accept it.
I want to remember all those heroes who offered their lives for the cause of human dignity and freedom. We do not mourn them, they are in God’s blossom in eternal bliss. Those who tried to destroy their dignity, only humiliated and degraded themselves.
I want to remember all those heroes who are suffering in this moment in China and in Hong Kong for voicing their claim respect for human dignity, for freedom and for democracy, those well-known and those anonymous heroes.
May my presence here today confirm your noble work in their support and may our presence today and our prayer everyday bring them comfort and strength.
May God bless us all.