The Disappearing One Country Two System Promise for Hong Kong is a Threat to Religious Freedom
By Gina Goh
06/09/2020 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – When tear gas, rubber bullets, and arbitrary arrests become a daily occurrence in China’s Special Administrative Region, Hong Kong is rapidly losing all the guaranteed freedoms and rights as enshrined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration.
June 9 marks the first anniversary of the anti-extradition law movement in Hong Kong. Although the 2019 movement has garnered robust support from Hong Kong’s citizens, and the controversial extradition bill was retracted months after the movement’s inception, Hong Kong has seen thousands of youngsters arrested, numerous mysterious deaths, and worst yet, a further tightened grip on the city as Beijing appointed notorious Chinese leaders to administer Hong Kong affairs.
Seeing that the Hong Kong authorities have not been able to suppress months of unrest, Beijing fears that the civil movement will spill over to its coastal cities and inspire Chinese citizens. The city’s struggling economy from last year’s massive protests also has not been able to recover and even worsened with the Coronavirus pandemic. In response, the Chinese leadership has decided to install more control with the recent passage of the National Security Law by the National People’s Congress.
Many are gravely concerned as the bill would be used as a knife held by Beijing to Hong Kong’s neck, forever altering the “One Country, Two Systems” status that Hong Kong has enjoyed and threatening its autonomy.
Anna Yeung-Cheung, the founder of New Yorkers Supporting Hong Kong (NY4HK), shared her observation on Hong Kong with ICC, “Of course my concern about the national security law is that Hong Kong’s ‘One Country, Two Systems’ is now becoming ‘One Country, One System.’ During these 20-something years, we can see the deterioration and encroachment from China. Now with this national security law without even passing through the legislature in Hong Kong, we can see the power, coming directly from Beijing, comes and presses on all the freedom of speech and human rights in Hong Kong.”
John, a member from Hong Kong of the advocacy group DC4HK echoed her concern, “[The law] is so broad that it will inevitably affect religious freedom in Hong Kong. China views Christianity as a threat to its grip on power, and the Chinese regime has closed or destroyed numerous churches throughout China. Church leaders and congregation members have also been harshly persecuted.”
He told ICC, “Therefore, Christians in Hong Kong will potentially face increased interference as Article 23 [the new security law] could be used to target the Christian practices and beliefs.”
In an online webinar hosted by the Center for Faith & Public Values at China Graduate School of Theology on May 25, Eric Cheung, the principal lecturer for the law department at the University of Hong Kong, said that while the churches in Hong Kong have not violated any laws or regulations for evangelism, if China employs the measures they used to punish Chengdu’s Early Rain Covenant Church pastor Wang Yi, the Hong Kong churches will face risks, given that China freely applies its laws with lots of flexibility in times of need.
He also warned against the impending establishment of national security agencies in Hong Kong by China, since everything the churches say or do will be placed under surveillance. The Chinese government can also take precautions to collect information and hack into emails of certain religious leaders, to monitor the churches’ contacts with overseas organizations.
When asked whether or not the Hong Kong society is ready to face the transformation from an open society to a closed one, where it is being monitored, Rev. Mike Ng from Ngau Tau Kok Swatow Christian Church believed that the churches in Hong Kong have not fully prepared themselves for this change.
Perhaps that is the reason why after 365 days of ongoing protests — despite all the blood, sweat, and tears— many Hong Kongers still refuse to give in and surrender to communist China the freedoms and human rights they pledge to guard with their lives. “Give me liberty or give me death!”
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