Hong Kong unrest escalates


Mission co-worker says city is in an uproar

by Kathy Melvin | Presbyterian News Service

Some Hong Kong residents meet in small groups to pray and support one another. (Photo by Judy Chan)

LOUISVILLE — Tensions continue to escalate in Hong Kong, leaving the city in what mission co -worker the Rev. Judy Chan describes as an “uproar.”

On Monday there was a call for a general strike in the city. The Hong Kong Christian Council, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) partner with whom Chan serves, supported the strike as a non-violent action as long as essential services and vulnerable people were not neglected. So many airport workers (pilots, flight attendants, air controllers) joined the strike or called in sick that the airport had to cancel many flights and was operating at about half its normal capacity.

Roads, tunnels and trains were blocked.

The underground subway was disrupted by protesters early Monday morning, blocking trains from departing. All major lines were affected, some shut down completely. Major roads were blocked by protesters and tear gas was fired all over Hong Kong as conflicts spread throughout the city.

It’s hard to say what effect further protests will have. Mission Co-Worker the Rev. Judy Chan reported that a group of more than 50 pastors is asking Hong Kong residents to “try to find a way to resolve this crisis.” (Photo by Judy Chan)

“So where is this all going? I really don’t know but I am really, really worried,” said Chan. “Not for my personal safety but for our young people who feel desperate and a government that seems unable or unwilling to respond in any effective way. The protesters, though mainly young people, are from all age groups, even the elderly and retired and, all professions — legal, social welfare, medical, business, civil servants, entertainment and more.”

The protests began on June 9 over a proposed law that would allow the Hong Kong government to send persons charged with certain crimes to mainland China for prosecution, which grew out of an incident over a Hong Kong citizen who is accused of murdering his girlfriend while in Taiwan. He came back to Hong Kong and there is no method to have him extradited to Taiwan since there is no agreement between the two places.

In response, the Hong Kong government proposed to amend its Fugitive Offenders Ordinance to allow extradition even to places with which they have no legal agreement.

Since the initial protests began, demands have broadened to include an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality, a call for the resignation of Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, and the demand to drop riot charges against protestors. Those arrested for rioting could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Chan said the Church is working to be an agent of peace and reconciliation, but it has been a difficult task. Even as protesters were singing “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord” and “We Shall Overcome,” some protestors were later setting fires and police were using tear gas and rubber bullets.  Still, churches continue to hold public prayer meetings and open their doors to protesters needing rest, food, bathrooms or emotional support.

On Monday evening, over 50 leading Hong Kong ministers issued a joint pastoral statement. They said, “Enough! It’s time to stop! The blood has flowed and we don’t want to see anyone being killed or killing. Let everyone calm down and try to find a way to resolve this crisis.”

The pastors expressed sorrow and sympathy for young people who have risked their safety, freedom and future to take a stand. The statement also called upon the government to take responsibility now before it is too late. They asked for an independent inquiry to find the truth behind the crisis in order to implement policies or even legislation to keep from repeating the same mistakes. And lastly, the pastors called for the body of Christ to witness by being united in faith and tolerant of different opinions even among Christians.

“Please pray for Hong Kong and its people, the government, the police and everyone who wants peace with justice,” said Chan. “‘Sacrifice’ is a word we use rather too easily in Christianity sometimes, especially applied to ourselves. I believe we are being tested as to its true meaning. Pray we can endure and prevail through the mercy and strength of our Lord!”

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