Hong Kong’s bishops renew call for calm after violent clashes at city’s university

22 November 2019

Clashes between protesters and police escalate in violence

REUTERS

A protester tries to escape from a sewage tunnel inside the Hong Kong Polytechnic University campus

A protester tries to escape from a sewage tunnel inside the Hong Kong Polytechnic University campus

THE Anglican bishops in Hong Kong have renewed their appeal for calm after a siege and clashes between protesters and police in one of the city’s universities.

Violence escalated this week, as the protests — which have now lasted five months — continued (News, 14 June). Initially sparked by a Bill to allow the extradition of sus­pected criminals in Hong Kong to mainland China, the protests have widened to include police brutality and the way in which Hong Kong is administered by Beijing.

A small hard core of anti-government protesters were thought to be trapped still in the Hong Kong Polytechnic University on Wednes­day: supplies of food and water are running low. Protesters have been there since last week and were lighting fires and throwing petrol bombs at the circling police. Some escaped by abseiling down from the building on to waiting motorbikes; many other have surrendered and been arrested.

The Revd Dr William Devlin, an American priest who founded a humanitarian organisation, spent a night with protesters at the uni­versity.

In an interview posted on Face­book, he said: “First, we come to praise and pray with the pastors who are following Jesus to stand with the protesters. Secondly, we are here to support thousands of young people, and let them know that we fought the same fight for the global values of democracy and free­dom. We have been there; so we un­­der­stand and support you,” he said.

The three bishops, led by the Archbishop of Hong Kong, Dr Paul Kwong, this week expressed their “deep concern” at the violence and appealed again for calm.

“We further appeal to all stake­holders to exercise self control, so that the crisis may be resolved with­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­out violence, but with reason, em­­­­­­­­­­­­­­pathy, and legitimacy. We hope that all students may go home . . . safely.

“We believe that all who dwell on earth are children of God. . . We ardently wish that we may learn to live together in for­giveness . . . and peace,” they said, in a statement released on Monday.

Many Christians, including pas­tors and clergy, have taken part in the protests, with some acting as buffers on the front line between protesters and the police.

One such group, Protect the Children, is made up of church workers, social workers, and elderly people who wear distinctive vests to mark them out. Other churches have opened their doors to provide sanctuary to protesters, though one — a Roman Catholic church — was stormed by police, and protesters sheltering inside were arrested and taken away.

The Roman Catholic diocese of Hong Kong, which includes 40 churches, 33 chapels, and 27 halls, later issued a statement expressing regret about the incident, and said that its churches could no longer protect people who sought refuge.

Hong Kong had previously banned protesters from wearing face­ masks, but this was deemed “un­­­­­­­­­­­­­constitutional” by the city’s High Court on Monday.

China has condemned the High Court’s decision.

Some church leaders have criti­cised the Church for being too pas­sive in the face of police treat­ment of protesters.

The Revd Dr Kwok Man-chee, aged 60, who chairs the Evangelical Free Church of China, which has 35,000 members and runs more than 50 churches, a college, a hospital, and a seminary, said that Churches should be giving hope to the residents of Hong Kong.

“I don’t see anything showing Hong Kong Churches leading the movement,” he said.

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