THE Archbishop of Hong Kong, Dr Paul Kwong, has urged the one million people who are protesting against changes to extradition law to “calm down” and seek a resolution through debate rather than protest.
Dr Kwong issued a statement this week appealing to “all parties” to “immediately calm down and to return to reasons in discussing how to resolve the dispute so as to avoid causing further chaos to the society”.
Organisers estimate that more than a million people marched on Sunday against the plan to allow extradition requests from authorities in mainland China, Taiwan, and Macau for suspects who are accused of criminal wrongdoing such as murder and rape. If their figures are correct, it would be the largest protest in Hong Kong since the territory was handed over by the British in 1997.
On Monday, protesters clashed with police outside the city’s parliament. There have been calls for people to surround the building on Tuesday evening and remain until Wednesday.
Britain handed Hong Kong back to China under a “one-country, two-systems” formula, which guaranteed that its autonomy, including its independent justice system, would be protected.
Critics fear that the proposed change would allow China to target opponents in the region.
In a pastoral letter on Tuesday, Dr Kwong wrote: “I understand that the purpose of the Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019 is to plug the loopholes in our current legislation. However, this proposed amendment has caused heated debates and deep-seated uneasiness and worries that have resulted in violent conflicts thus dividing the society.
“I appeal to all parties concerned — those who are against and those who are pro the amendment — to immediately calm down and to return to reasons in discussing how to resolve the dispute so as to avoid causing further chaos to the society. It is my hope that people from all sectors, especially young people, to express their demands through legal and legitimate channels and means, and not to resort to illegal means. Illegal means will harm not only those who resort to it, but also those who love them and their beloved, and the society as a whole.
“I called on all Christians to pray for the stability and prosperity of Hong Kong and for a perfect resolution to the dispute.”
The Roman Catholic diocese of Hong Kong has also urged the Hong Kong government and the public to show restraint, and to use peaceful means to find a solution.
Several Christian groups — including the Hong Kong Christian Council, the Baptist Convention of Hong Kong, and the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church Union of Hong Kong — have voiced concerns about the proposed change.
Human-rights organisations have written a letter to the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam, calling for the Hong Kong government to withdraw the proposed changes.
The China director at Human Rights Watch, Sophie Richardson, said: “The proposed changes to the extradition laws will put anyone in Hong Kong doing work related to the mainland at risk.
“No one will be safe, including activists, human-rights lawyers, journalists, and social workers.”
But Ms Lam, who has vowed to carry on with the changes, has insisted that the law would not erode any of the special freedoms that the territory enjoys.
The second reading of the Bill is due to be debated on Wednesday, and further protests are planned. More than 2000 counsellors, therapists, and carers are due to go on strike to join the protest, and the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union has also called on its members to attend the protest.