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Hong Kong Protests 2014: Christians Finding Their Voice During Protest for Democracy, Civil Unrest

( [email protected] ) Sep 29, 2014 05:21 PM EDT

Hong Kong Protest for Democracy
Bobby Yip

Hong Kong is going through its toughest political protests since the 1997 handover, as different pro-democracy activists rally for universal suffrage. Many christians, like Baptist minister Chu Yiu-ming, say the battle is too important to cave in to the threats of jail and the communist party.

Yiu-ming's organization, Occupy Central, and other activist groups like his, has begun crippling the city's financial district through sit-ins and civil disobedience.

The latest wave of unrest started in August, when Beijing rejected demands for people to freely choose the city's next leader in 2017. The central government is allowing for elections, but they want to control who goes on the ballot.

Over the weekend, the police forces used riot gear, pepper spray, tear gas, and police batons against the peaceful protestors, consisting mainly of students, with dozens injured by authorities. 

Public condemnations against the police's use of excessive force against peaceful protestors are spreading rapidly across social media. The protestors appeared to pose no clear or imminent threat to public safety or property, nor have there been any reported instances of protestors threatening police. Some protestors shook police barriers and threw empty plastic bottles, but the protest otherwise remained entirely peaceful. Some video footage showed disturbing uses of pepper spray. 

Yiu-ming, who grew up on the mainland remembers the cultural revolution and has a strong fear of going to jail, but he told the South China Morning Press that something has to be done.

"I am ready to conquer and pay the price [for democracy]," he said. "I am already 70 years old ... I come out just in the hope of clearing some obstacles and paving a smoother road for our next generation, so that they can have an easier life."

Beijing has so far refused to cede ground on its stance, setting the scene for growing, and more intense, clashes.

Many on the island have come out to rally, but not all support the pro democracy side. Even among the Christian population, there are different voices.

Former Catholic leader Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun said that voting in the 2017 chief executive under restrictive conditions laid down by Beijing would be meaningless, seeming to side with the protestors. While other Christians, like Anglican Archbishop the Most Reverend Paul Kwong, a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, urged Christians to "remain silent" in the face of social conflicts as Jesus was silent on the cross.

Yiu-ming, whose Chai Wan Baptist Church does not affiliate directly with the Catholics or Anglicans, said while it was normal for different churches to express different views, "it was a worse thing to cite the Bible and create misunderstanding among the congregation or the society".

"For example [if you cite the Bible] to say that we must submit to authority, you [could be] reading it too simply ... in fact if rulers are disobeying God, we won't obey them either," he pointed out.

But Yiu-ming said he was grateful for Cardinal Zen's support for democracy.

"You can say that he doesn't represent the [Protestant] church, but his expressions ... reflect the church's basic core values," he said.