A large swath of the Christian population of Hong Kong is taking part in the massive “umbrella revolution” underway in that nation as citizens fight for the right to elect their own leader and break away from the control of the mainland communist regime in Beijing.
According to Joe Carter of the Acton Institute, tens of thousands of people have been pouring into the streets of Hong Kong in the last week, led by pro-democracy activists that include Catholic Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, to protest Beijing’s interference in their 2017 elections.
Communist Chinese leaders had promised direct elections for a chief executive of Hong Kong, but decided last month that voters will only have a choice between two or three candidates that were hand-picked by a nominating committee comprised of people from Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing population.
In other words, Beijing broke their promise and now wants to control the election, something that has infuriated the people of Hong Kong.
As result, students began boycotting classes and holding demonstrations outside Hong Kong’s main government compound in Tamar Park. Since then, members of the Occupy Central with Love and Peace — which is the same Occupy movement that staged protests on Wall Street earlier this year – also became involved.
Even though the movement is considered secular, Christians have been in the vanguard of the pro-democracy sentiment that is now raging through the country, mostly because of their desire to put an end to Beijing’s virulently anti-religious government.
Catholic leaders such as Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, who served as the sixth bishop of Hong Kong, addressed the crowds on September 24, urging them to ignore the Communist government.
“In a place where education is not sufficient, people will get cheated easily. There will be danger of manipulation. However, the basic conditions in Hong Kong are ready. People are mature enough,” he said according to Catholic Online. “Beijing does not allow civil nomination because they fear. They do not trust in us, thinking that we will intentionally choose a leader who will confront them.”
Cardinal Zen is among four Catholic leaders that state-run newspapers have dubbed the “four troublesome gangsters of Hong Kong”. The others include Jimmy Lai, founder of the pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily; Anson Chan, a well known protester, and; Martin Lee, founder of the Hong Kong Democratic Party.
In addition to these Catholic firebrands, many Occupy Central leaders in Hong Kong are Christian and pastors of all denominations are allowing their churches to be used as sites to provide support to marchers such as the distribution of food, water and a place to rest.
Police have tried to curtail the movement and it was their use of pepper spray and tear gas that prompted people to carry umbrellas to ward off the toxic fumes – thus dubbing the march the “umbrella revolution.”
Hong Kong has an unusual history. It was ceded to Britain by China in 1842 after the First Opium War, but it’s 99-year lease expired in 1997. It then became a “special administrative region” of China.
“Hong Kong is governed under the principle of ‘one country, two systems’,under which China has agreed to give the region a high degree of autonomy and to preserve its economic and social systems for 50 years from the date of the handover,” explains Carter.
“China controls Hong Kong’s foreign and defense policies, but the territory has its own currency and customs status. Hong Kong’s constitution, the Basic Law, provides for the development of democratic processes. However, the Chinese government can veto changes to the political system and pro-democracy forces have been frustrated by what they see as the slow pace of political reform.”
Even though Catholics comprise just five percent of the population, and Protestants just seven percent, Hong Kong Christians have born the brunt of Beijing’s anti-religion sentiment.
“Christians in Hong Kong, they see that economic development has not brought more religious tolerance in China, so despite economic development, despite improvement in living standards and opening to the external world, tolerance of Christianity especially has not been improving, in fact in the recent two years persecution has strengthened,” said Joseph Cheng Yu-shek, a professor of politics at the City University of Hong Kong.
It makes perfect sense that those who have been denied the most freedom are now the loudest voices calling for democracy.
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