As the protests continue in Hong Kong, many are wondering what the future holds for those who adhere to the Christian faith. When China announced its intentions to enforce an extradition bill earlier this year, believers feared that their religious freedoms could be at serious risk. Seeing as the communist nation is one of the most oppressive nations for Christians, Hong Kong’s 800,000 strong Christian population were right to be concerned. The fear was simple, would China start deporting them from Hong Kong on false pretences, before locking them up for good on account of their Christian faith?
Speaking to International Christian Concern (ICC), Pastor Chih-hung Lau noted that followers of Jesus have for some time been concerned that “human rights persecution will come” in Hong Kong and that “freedom of religion might be lost” forever across the former British territory. “While the government might be cautious to implement the law at first, this ‘knife’ is still dangling above your head. It creates fears and invites self-censorship,” added Professor Ying Fuk-tsang, director of the divinity school at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. “For Hong Kongers, it will be much more challenging to do any ministry inside China in the future.”
With Hong Kong’s pro-China CEO Carrie Lam stating that the extradition bill will now be completely withdrawn, Christians are breathing a huge sigh of relief as the threat of Chinese-led persecution dwindles. This could change, however, if the Chinese government makes another attempt to force the legislation through. In that instance, Lam, would be almost completely powerless to resist it. She is, after all, a mere figurehead, controlled by the central communist government under the command of President Xi Jinping. “No matter what discontentment the people have, violence is not the way to resolve problems,” Lam warned, according to the BBC.
“While it is good news that Carrie Lam has formally withdrawn the controversial law, many Hong Kong Christians believe that it is simply not enough,” ICC’s South East Asia regional manager, Gina Goh, said. This reluctant withdrawal, Goh said, cannot repair the damage that has been done through the total erosion of trust between the people and the state. Thousands of complaints are being filed against the heavy-handed police force. “On the abuse of power, excessive use of force, and attacking of citizens, the Hong Kong Police have already lost people’s trust,” she said, “so it is difficult to expect that they will be fair after people file their complaints against them.”
The Hong Kong Catholic Diocese (HKJP) issued an official statement in response to Lam’s withdrawal announcement, noting that merely retracting the bill will not calm the social unrest caused by the government.” The Diocese demanded that Hong Kong be granted greater legislative separation from the Chinese state. Speaking directly to Carrie Lam, who herself is a Catholic, Cardinal Joseph Zen, Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong, issued some scathing remarks on the situation: “Carrie Lam should at least agree to two demands: retract the bill and set up an independent investigation committee. Then, hopefully people can accept a period of truce,” the Bishop said.