Retired Hong Kong bishop Joseph Zen Ze-kiun loves the sound of his own voice more than the Catholic Church and the pope himself. Sadly for us, retirement doesn’t suit him. That the anti-communism of the 86-year-old cardinal amounts to fanaticism is well-known. Whether he really understands, as he claims, China today better than the pope and the entire diplomatic apparatus of the sovereign state of the Vatican is open to question. After calling on Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin to resign last month over rapprochement between the church and Beijing, he has now written in The New York Times that “The pope doesn’t understand China”, which is, incidentally, the title of his opinion piece. The US newspaper has become a mouthpiece for the yellow ribbon crowd from Hong Kong. It has made Joseph Lian Yizheng, the intellectual eminence grise of Hong Kong localism, a regular columnist. It has called for the Nobel Peace Prize for student protest leaders Joshua Wong Chi-fung, Nathan Law Kwun-chung and Alex Chow Yong-kang. Content and balance doesn’t matter for the paper, it seems, so long as whatever it publishes fits with a certain preconceived narrative of its editors about our city. So it’s hardly surprising Zen now gets his own column inches. Hong Kong cardinal calls for Vatican official to quit over Beijing talks “I know the church in China, I know the communists and I know the Holy See,” Zen declares. “I’m a Chinese from Shanghai. I lived many years on the mainland and many years in Hong Kong. “I taught in seminaries throughout China – in Shanghai, Xian, Beijing, Wuhan, Shenyang – between 1989 and 1996. Pope Francis, an Argentine, doesn’t seem to understand the communists.” So you have to be Chinese to understand Chinese communists? That must be news to legions of Western scholars and diplomats who fancy themselves professional sinologists and old China hands. Besides, China has moved on since 1996. Zen claims the current rapprochement will lead to “the annihilation of the real church in China”. Technically, that’s true – because the church won’t be underground any more, and can operate openly and legally on the mainland. Of course, it won’t be a force of resistance to mainland authorities any more, which is really what Zen wants. Zen doesn’t want to spread religion by peaceful or legal means. He prefers persecution and suffering for mainland Catholics, while he lives safely in Hong Kong broadcasting his virulent, hateful and demented views.