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Watching Over Hong Kong

A Letter from Judy Chan, serving in Hong Kong

July 2019

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Dear Friends,

It seems new conflicts are happening daily in Hong Kong in mass protests against the Hong Kong government. What triggered the last six weeks of mind-boggling events was the government’s controversial proposal to allow Hong Kong residents charged with certain crimes to be extradited to other jurisdictions, even where there is no formal agreement between the two places. This immediately raised alarm that people in Hong Kong could be sent to mainland China for trial. Even though Hong Kong is a part of the People’s Republic of China, the city operates under a different legal, social and economic system as part of the handover agreement between China and the U.K.

Besides the millions who turned out to protest on the first two Sundays, there was storming of the Legislative Council building on July 1 — officially the day to commemorate the 1997 handover. I was in Taiwan on vacation at the time. My heart sank to see such violent confrontation between young protesters and the police. A small group of radical protesters vandalized the building, causing millions of dollars of damage. But more disturbing was to see how angry and desperate some of the young people were to be heard and seen. One message spray painted in the Legislative Council building said, “Peaceful protests don’t work!”

Now the protests and strategies have spread around Hong Kong beyond the areas where the government offices are located. And each time, there are thousands who join from all ages and all walks of life. Four young people have committed suicide during this period and are considered martyrs for Hong Kong by some in the community.

The most shocking incident happened on July 21 when passengers on the subway train in the Yuen Long area in remote New Territories were attacked by a mob of men clad in white t-shirts. Some passengers were protesters returning home and could be identified by their black clothing. Police seemed to be very slow to respond to emergency calls, and they only arrived after many were injured and taken to the hospital. There was suspicion that those who attacked were part of organized crime, called “triads” in Hong Kong, like the Mafia. This was horrible to every Hong Konger.

The protests may continue throughout the summer unless something changes. Even though Chief Executive Mrs. Carrie Lam announced suspension of the hated bill, protesters are not satisfied. They demand complete withdrawal of the bill, an independent investigation of the police accused of using excessive force, amnesty for all protesters, the resignation of the chief executive, and universal suffrage for Hong Kong elections.

Like the 2014 democracy protests (Occupy Central/Umbrella Movement), the anti-extradition protests have substantial support from the Christian community. Besides joining the actions themselves, many churches have held prayer meetings, opened their buildings to those needing rest and support, and provided pastoral care. Of course, there are widely different opinions about who is right and who is wrong. But the church has to respond to this ongoing crisis that is tearing the community and even families apart.

On July 10, the Hong Kong Christian Council held a prayer meeting at Truth Lutheran Church to pray for the city and ask for God’s mercy, forgiveness, comfort, healing and justice. Almost 200 Christians of all ages attended. The music was led by a team of young people from the Anglican Church.

I personally do believe peaceful protests “work” — that’s why I joined one of the earlier marches. Whether we get what we want from the government or not, the call of the church of Jesus Christ is not to be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21).

Please continue to pray for this city and this nation. Let me close with some words used in the HKCC prayer meeting:

“Lord, you call us to serve the people of Hong Kong in this era, and we shoulder this mission. As a lampstand to show forth the light of Christ to the world, let your church be a witness of truth to all people. Let us bring hope to all citizens, especially our young people who may feel they are in darkness and disappointment. May we always seek to be peacemakers, not overwhelmed by fears of disaster and chaos. Give us more faith to trust you as we seek your divine will for Hong Kong and our country. O Lord, hear our prayer!”

In the precious peace of Christ,

Judy Chan

PS: If you would like to get the most up-to-date news on the protests, you can read about them here.

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