Christian fears help fuel Hong Kong pro-democracy protests

The massive pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong are partly motivated by a desire to stop China’s communist government from clamping down on Christianity.

The protesters are calling for democratic elections in Hong Kong, demanding the right to vote for a leader of their choice in 2017, without restrictions from Beijing.

But some commentators see a broader struggle to protect Hong Kong’s culture from China’s communist government, as it increases its influence on the city.

Christianity has been a visible element of the demonstrations, with prayer groups and crosses seen, and protesters reading Bibles in the street.

Hong Kong’s former bishop, Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, said the fight for democracy is “a question of the whole culture, the whole way of living, in this our city”.

Beijing’s influence through Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying “brings to Hong Kong the whole culture which is now reigning in China, a culture of falsity, of dishonesty, a lack of spiritual values”, Cardinal Zen told the Wall Street Journal.

“We can see that it is coming, so we have to resist.”

Some see the gap between Christians and the Chinese government as unbridgeable.

“Christians, by definition, don’t trust the communists. The communists suppress Christians wherever they are,” said Joseph Cheng, a political-science professor at City University of Hong Kong and a supporter of the protesters.

Hong Kong’s major church organisations have taken largely neutral stances toward the Occupy Central movement.

Cardinal John Tong issued a brief statement last week urging the Hong Kong government to exercise “restraint in deployment of force” and telling protesters to be “calm” in voicing their grievances.

A spokesperson for the city’s Anglican Church said in July that it wouldn’t encourage its parishioners to break the law.

Bui in July, 2013, Hong Kong Catholic diocese issued a statement urging that “the Chief Executive shall be directly elected by universal suffrage in 2017 – on a one person, one vote basis”.

Some churches are providing aid to protesters and some of leaders of the demonstration movements are Christians.

Last week, the Hong Kong Federation of Catholic Students criticised the police’s excessive use of violence when dispersing “unarmed students”.

Mr Leung announced on Saturday that “all necessary actions” would be taken to ensure the protesters were removed by Monday morning and order restored.

On Sunday, blockades of official buildings began to be eased.


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