A popular student leader said Catholics and other Christians should take a more visible role in protests against the government’s plans to allow extradition to mainland China.
“For this movement, it’s a great chance for the Catholics and [other] Christians to cooperate with each other,” said Edwin Chow, acting president of the Hong Kong Federation of Catholic Students
“It’s a good chance for us to become united. Because I think for most of the Catholics and Christians, we have the same values, the same goal,” Chow told Catholic News Agency (CNA), “so that’s why we cooperate, and I think after Christians and Catholics cooperate, our strengths, our power becomes stronger.”
Along with their opposition to the extradition bill, which has been temporarily suspended, protesters have also decried an excessive use of force by the Hong Kong police, including the use of rubber bullets and tear gas.
A report released Saturday by AsiaNews, the official press agency of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, claims that the Chinese government engaged its formidable propaganda machine against Hong Kong protesters, fabricating false reports riddled with ideology in an attempt to deflect attention from the reasons behind the demonstrations.
As the clashes between demonstrators and police have escalated, police have grown increasingly brutal in their tactics and the presence of Chinese troops in Shenzhen — just a few miles from Hong Kong — has raised the specter of a military intervention.
Protests began in earnest in June as concerns grew that under a proposed law both Hong Kong citizens and foreign nationals could be extradited to mainland China for prosecution, undermining Hong Kong’s rule of law.
Hong Kong Cardinal John Tong has requested that the extradition law be completely scrapped, calling for an independent inquiry into the excessive use of force by security officials.
The cardinal has also invited Catholics to take part in a Mass for Hong Kong’s welfare to be celebrated on Friday, August 23.
Hong Kong Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing has also been very vocal in his support for protesters. going to protest sites and reaching out to young people. After one rally, Bishop Ha took part in an overnight ecumenical prayer meeting outside the Legislative Council building with thousands of Christians present.
Chow said that Christians had a more visible role early on in the protests but have since seemed to take a back seat, a situation he hopes will change.
“I think the Christian groups and the Catholic groups should participate more in the protests, to take a more major role, because I think nowadays the protests become more radical, and people get very emotional,” Chow said.
“For the Catholic groups, for the Christian groups, we have the responsibility and we have the power to calm our friends down,” he said. “Because I think singing hymns, just in the beginning, it creates a peaceful atmosphere, and it has a power to keep everyone very calm. So I think we can use this when we do this again.”
The extradition poses a serious threat to Catholics, Chow said, because it could undermine religious freedom by giving Beijing further power to arrest Christians and transfer them to China if they commit “crimes” against the mainland.
Beijing has barred mail services from shipping helmets, umbrellas, masks, and gloves to Hong Kong, since these constitute the gear used by demonstrators to protect themselves from tear gas and police bullets.
Reports in official Chinese media have focused on the violence of the protests, while ignoring the reasons and causes behind them, AsiaNews noted. While offering no evidence, authorities have suggested that “foreign hands” have been at play in inciting revolts.
There are over a half million Catholics in Hong Kong and they make up about 8% of the population.