What is Happening in Hong Kong?
By ICC’s Regional Manager for Southeast Asia, Gina Goh
In light of the ongoing social movement in Hong Kong against the expedition bill, which has entered its third month, ICC will feature a series of articles highlighting the cause, the role of Hong Kong Christians, what the movement has come to, and its development in the future.
09/13/2019 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – I’d never imagine that Hong Kong would become like this, three months after I paid a visit to the region dubbed the Pearl of the Orient.
With the intention to learn more about Christian persecution in China through the lens of Hong Kong Christians, I embarked on a trip to Hong Kong on June 10, a day after nearly one million citizens filled the streets of Hong Kong to rally against a government plan to allow extraditions to mainland China.
It was then no surprise to me, when the extradition law amendment came up in nearly all of my conversation with Hong Kong Christians in the following days.
You may ask, what does an extradition law bill have to do with Christians, since the proposed amendment deals with sending criminals to mainland China?
“With [the passage] of the amendment, it will turn the so called ‘One Country, Two Systems’ of Hong Kong into ‘One Country, One System’”, pastor Chih-hung Lau from City Concern of Christians Fellowship told me.
He was referring to the governing principle set forth by the then Chinese leader Deng Xiaopin, who promised that Hong Kong’s economic and political systems will not be changed for 50 years after the British handover in 1997.
Since China’s judicial system and human rights record are notorious, anybody could be thrown in jail with trumped-up charges, as already seen in the cases of many Chinese human rights activists, lawyers, and church leaders.
He fears that the same could happen to Hong Kongers, should the amendment pass.
“After the passage, we might have to worry that human rights persecution will come as a whole. The freedom we enjoy might be lost,” he added.
Professor Ying Fuk-tsang, director of the divinity school at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, who is an expert on China’s Christian persecution, told me in details how the amendment could affect Hong Kong Christians.
“Although the Hong Kong government promises that criminals of political, religious, and human rights nature would not be extradited, when China wants to oppress you, they can charge you with ‘unlawful assembly’, ‘illegal publication,’ or economic crimes,” he said.
There were Hong Kong Christians who were arrested in China for the reasons above. In 2002, Hong Kong businessman Li Guangqiang was accused of smuggling thousands of bibles into southeastern China and was sentenced to two years in prison for “illegal trading.”
“The Chinese government will handle religious issues with non-religious reasons,” Ying added.
He also echoed Pastor Lau’s comment on “One Country, One System” – With the amendment, Hong Kong government will remove the separator between China and Hong Kong and make the two as one.
“While the government might be cautious to implement the law at first (with the goal to let people’s guard down), this ‘knife’ is still dangling above your head. It creates fears and invites self-censorship,” he said. “For Hong Kongers, it will be much more challenging to do any ministry inside China in the future.”
“The Chinese government will handle religious issues with non-religious reasons.”
The night before the Legislative Council was supposed to conduct the second reading of the bill, pastor Lau invited me to attend a prayer vigil in front of the government building.
I had just learned from him that Hong Kong government allows religious gatherings without having to obtain a permit from the police. This is also one thing which could be at stake in the future.
When we finally located each other, among thousands of people, near a wooden white cross raised up next to a first aid station, his friend immediately commented on my appearance.
“Why are you wearing a mask?” Her voice showed utmost concern. “The police see the masked ones as rioters and problematic. It is very dangerous for you! You should not have worn a mask!” she continued.
I explained to her that I had to wear a mask to shield my identity, since I have to travel to China for work.
She nodded in agreement to my approach. “Well then, it is indeed better for you to cover your face.”
Little did we know, three months later, masks, or even gas masks, have become part of the standard equipment for the protestors in their continuous fight against the government.
[To Be Continued]
For interviews, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: firstname.lastname@example.org.