Faith-Driven Pursuit of Democracy Leads to Jail in Hong Kong
Michael Ireland - Assist News

Michael Ireland - Assist News

When Hong Kong reverted back to Chinese rule from the British Empire on July 1, 1997, the Chinese government assured distressed Hong Kongers that they would implement a “one country, two systems” policy to allow Hong Kong to have its own laws and its unique way of life would stay the same for at least 50 years.

However, Hong Kong is on the trajectory of losing its promised autonomy to Beijing, reports Gina Goh for International Christian Concern (ICC).

Goh says that through manipulated elections, financial incentives, and legal means, China has progressively diminished Hong Kong’s democracy while inserting its encroaching influence.

In her report for ICC, Goh says The Basic Law put in place for Hong Kong also states that the central government is banned from interfering in Hong Kong’s affairs, and the Communist Party should establish no official presence. Freedom of speech, press, religion and protest are also protected by law.

Two decades later, however, almost all of the regulations above have been violated by Beijing, with the “high degree of autonomy” on executive, legislative and independent judicial power reserved for Hong Kong rapidly disappearing.

Concerned Hong Kongers, especially Christians, who have traditionally been at the forefront of social movement, fighting against injustice, decided to band together and call for genuine universal suffrage as guaranteed in The Basic Law in 2013.

Professors Tai Yiu Ting and Chan Kin Man, both Christians, together with Reverend Chu Yiu-ming, organized the “Occupy Central with Love and Peace” civil disobedience campaign on March 27, 2013 to stage a mass sit-in. Protestors flooded into Central District to urge Beijing not to vet candidates for Hong Kong’s top leader in the 2017 elections

ICC says their campaign took off and gained support from tens of thousands of protesters. The joining of student protesters led to a 79-day long “Umbrella Movement,” which took its name from the shield protesters used against pepper spray.

Despite the large crowd, the pro-democracy activists were unable to achieve their goals. Beijing continues to exert its power on Hong Kong’s political matters. On April 9, a Hong Kong court found nine leaders of the 2014 “Umbrella Movement” guilty on charges of incitement and conspiracy for their role in leading the mass protest. These activists face prison terms of up to seven years.

Reverend Chu Yiu-ming, the minister of Chai Wan Baptist Church in Hong Kong, the eldest among the nine convicted, delivered a heartfelt statement on Tuesday. With tears in his eyes, he read out his final plea to the court ahead of his sentencing.

He told the court, “I am a Christian minister committed to the service of God. I have resolved to live a life of friendship with the weak and the poor, praying that God’s justice be manifested on earth as it is in heaven, and that the gospel of love and peace be proclaimed among the people. But today, old and grey, I find myself in the Defendant’s dock, making a final plea as a convict. It looks so absurd, if not outright shameful for a person holding holy office.

“And yet, at this very moment, my heart tells me that with this defendant’s dock, I have found the most honourable pulpit of my ministerial career. The valley of the shadow of death leads to spiritual heights.

“For decades, I have preached numerous sermons. Little could I anticipate that the one message which preparation took me the longest time and the most heartfelt prayer, and which probably would reach the largest audience, is precisely this one delivered from the Defendant’s dock. In this message I tell the story of my childhood, of the Umbrella Movement, a story of heaven and earth.

“In days of old, Jewish people longed for the coming of the Redeemer when there would be no more pain and tears. Then Christ, Incarnate, took on human flesh and lived among us, sharing in our suffering and pain. And the world has since learned that “where there is suffering and tears, there is the Redeemer.”

“Ours is an age of absurdity. Living in a society on the brink of authoritarianism and of arbitrary rule, let me be a brave bell toller, ringing, waking up sleepy souls.”

His full statement to the court can be read here.

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