It is essential for Hong Kong Catholics to continue to play a central role in the massive protests against laws that could jeopardize important freedoms, a new editorial proposes.
“Any new law that raises the specter of extradition from Hong Kong’s autonomous justice system to mainland China must concern the city’s 580,000 Catholics,” write the editors of the U.S.-based National Catholic Register. “Catholics and other Christians recognize what is at stake, knowing as they do the terrible situation facing all Christians, Catholics especially, on the mainland.”
As Breitbart News reported earlier this month, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has continued its crackdown on religious activities in the country, banning a number of Christian summer camps organized for children.
Over the past several years, the communist government under party leader Xi Jinping has taken measures to prevent children from receiving religious instruction, forbidding minors from entering Christian churches or joining Christian groups, barring access to universities for churchgoing youth, and even forcing kindergarten pupils to sign an atheist manifesto, abjuring religious activities of any sort.
Chinese authorities have justified their action by claiming that church attendance and religious instruction keep young persons from developing “a correct worldview and set of values.” The fear is that Beijing would like to apply this same mentality to Hong Kong.
Proposed legislation that could lead to the extradition of Hong Kong citizens to mainland China “is seen by many as an aggressive move that erodes the freedoms Hong Kong has been afforded since 1997, when the former British colony became a ‘special administrative region’ of the People’s Republic of China,” declare the Register’s editors.
From the outset, there has been worry that Beijing would not honor its promise to maintain “a high degree of autonomy” for Hong Kong, “including control over its own legal system and economic life,” the editorial states, and these concerns have increased in the last years, in the face of efforts “to curb freedom of speech, shut down any criticism of the government and strip away Hong Kong’s autonomy.”
If it were to pass, the extradition law could have a devastating effect on the religious life of Catholics and other Christians in Hong Kong.
“Considering the fact that many Christians help both the official and unofficial Church, the ‘underground Church,’ they would be directly accused of being suspected criminals and extradited to China and prosecuted,” said Father Bernardo Cervellera, the editor of AsiaNews, the press agency of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, in an interview with the Register.
For its part, the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong issued a statement urging the Hong Kong government as well as protesters to find a peaceful solution, but implored the government “not to rush to amend the fugitive bill before fully responding to the concerns of the legal sector and the public.”
“As the protests continue, Catholics must continue to play a vital but shrewd role in Hong Kong — and Chinese — society, steering any protests away from radical actions that will endanger both lives and democracy,” the Register states.
Edwin Chow, acting president of the Hong Kong Federation of Catholic Students, agrees.
“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.”