Nearly 2 million people gathered on the streets of Hong Kong to participate in a mass protest against a controversial extradition bill that could see residents sent to mainland China to stand trial.
Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, suspended the bill on Saturday and followed that up with a rare apology the next day. In it, she admitted “deficiencies” in the government’s work had led to “substantial controversies and disputes in society, causing disappointment and grief among the people.”
Hong Kong has been governed under a “one country, two systems” formula since 1997, when Britain returned control of Hong Kong to China. As a result, Hong Kong has enjoyed privileges not granted to China, including an independent judiciary, increased protections, and fewer restrictions on freedom of expression.
Determined to preserve the systems it inherited from Britain, which included freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and eventually, free elections, protesters are calling on Lam to resign — and for the bill to be scrapped, not merely suspended.
Videos posted on social media show thousands of protesters singing “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord,” a Christian song that has become the unofficial anthem of the protests.
And despite the arrest of 32 protesters, the demonstrations aren’t likely to end anytime soon: Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF), the organizers of the protests, said they will continue until the government withdraws the extradition bill in its entirety, releases arrested protesters and withdraws all charges, retracts the characterization of the protests as a “riot” and forces Lam to resign.
“Should the government refuse to respond, only more Hong Kongers will strike tomorrow,” CHRF said, according to Asia News.
Christians have been among the leading forces behind the protests in Hong Kong, and several influential evangelical and Catholic leaders have participated in the demonstrations.
Here are the reactions of several Christian leaders to what is being recognized as the largest protest in Hong Kong’s history.
The most visible face of Hong Kong’s push for democracy, 22-year-old Joshua Wong, walked free from prison on Monday — and immediately addressed a rally outside Hong Kong’s legislature, vowing to “join to fight against this evil law.”
“Hello world and hello freedom,” Wong said on Twitter. “I have just been released from prison. GO HONG KONG!! Withdraw the extradition bill. Carrie Lam step down. Drop all political prosecutions!”
That same day, Wong told Time Magazine he expects to once again be imprisoned for his activism: “[This won’t be] the final time for me to serve a jail sentence,” he said. “I believe the government will prosecute me again, but things can’t defeat me, just make me stronger. At least I hope to prove, to let people to know, that even though I’ve been jailed … I’ve not stepped backwards. I still stand on the front lines with the people in Hong Kong.”
When asked what he’d like the world to know about the protests, Wong said, “Hong Kong is different to mainland China. We protect our freedoms. We ask for free elections to elect the leader of our city. It’s not the final battle, it’s not the endgame, because the Hong Kong government and Beijing have turned a whole generation of students from citizens to dissidents.”
Wong, who was jailed for his role in the 2014 pro-democracy “Umbrella” protests that blocked major roads for 79 days, is an outspoken Christian who has previously cited his Christian faith as the motivation for his involvement in the protests.
Earlier he told World Magazine: “As Christians, we are not only responsible for preaching the gospel and then waiting to go to heaven when we die. We need to be bringing heaven down to earth. That seems like a totally idealistic dream, but if we want that dream to come true, how should we let people know that as Christians we don’t focus only on trying to increase our salaries and better our careers? We ask, how can we do more for the people around us?”
The Rev. Chi Wai Wu, general secretary of Hong Kong Church Renewal Movement, along with several other Christians, spent the night of June 12 and the next day on the streets with the protesters, World Magazine reports.
Earlier in the day, Wu participated in a prayer meeting outside the government complex, concluded with the singing of “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord.” The group sang the song repeatedly, hoping to bring peace to the tense situation.
Yet Wu was on the front-lines when police clashed with protesters, throwing tear gas, shooting rubber bullets, and firing pepper spray.
In a press conference the next day with a group of more than 20 pastors, Wu condemned the police for using force and beating unarmed demonstrators. He expressed sorrow over Hong Kong’s future.
“I feel so sad,” Wu said at the press conference with tears in his eyes. “Will the younger generation want to be known as Hong Kong people? Will they love Hong Kong? We will lose the entire generation of young people.”
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Leah MarieAnn Klett