Beijing has called for the European Union and the United States to end their “foolish political show” after they criticised the arrests of Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun and three other opposition activists in Hong Kong, while the city’s Catholic diocese expressed deep concern for the safety of its former leader.

The response on Thursday from the Office of the Commissioner of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong came as a senior member of the Catholic diocese said Zen had instructed the religious organisation to remain low key.