HONG KONG is experiencing “grief and despondency”, an Anglican priest in the Province said last week.
As the region entered the 11th week of protests, the Vicar of St Andrew’s, Kowloon, the Revd Alex McCoy, praised its “wonderful tradition of peaceful protest and civic pride”.
“We support people being able to voice their concerns through peaceful and legal demonstrations,” he said on Thursday of last week. But he also spoke of “a creeping sense of hopelessness for the future”.
Until this weekend, there had been signs that the protests, which began in June, were taking a more peaceful direction. On 18 August, hundreds of thousands of people — estimated by organisers to number 1.7 million — gathered for a peaceful demonstration in torrential rain. The chief executive of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam, expressed hope that this was “the beginning of society returning to peace and staying away from violence”.
Last Friday, thousands of people held hands in a human chain in an echo of the “Baltic chain” formed in August 1989, when about two million people joined arms across the three Baltic states to protest against Soviet rule.
On Sunday, however, there were clashes between the police, who fired water cannon and tear gas, and protesters, who threw bricks and petrol bombs. One officer fired a warning shot into the air. Protesters also brought down lamp posts that were equipped with surveillance cameras.
The conflict prompted the government to warn that “the escalating illegal and violent acts of radical protesters are not only outrageous, they also push Hong Kong to the verge of a very dangerous situation.”
Reuters reports that the police have so far arrested 883 people — the youngest just 12 — and that 205 police officers have been injured.
Last week, Mr McCoy spoke of hope for “a climate of restraint and mutual understanding, for differing groups to be able to listen to one another, and for a return to peace”.
He continued: “Hong Kong is in a period of grief and despondency, not just over the Extradition Bill. Many people have a creeping sense of hopelessness for the future in response to many complex factors, including wealth disparity, housing affordability, work and education pressures, and the city’s political future.
“Finding solutions to these concerns highlights deep divisions in Hong Kong society. The challenge and opportunity for Christians is to maintain our unity in Christ, even when we disagree with one another on solutions to the current crisis; and also to present the everlasting hope that Jesus offers to all through his death and resurrection.”
Christians are expected to participate in further planned protests.
This month, the acting president of the Hong Kong Federation of Catholic Students, Edwin Chow, told the Catholic News Agency that the protest movement was “a great chance for the Catholics and [Protestant] Christians to co-operate with each other”.
Christians should “take a more major role, because I think nowadays the protests become more radical, and people get very emotional . . .
“We have the responsibility, and we have the power to calm our friends down. Because I think singing hymns, just in the beginning — it creates a peaceful atmosphere, and it has a power to keep everyone very calm.”
Christians had reason to be concerned, he said: “The Chinese government is suppressing the Church in mainland China, and so we are worried that, when we have communication with the mainland Church, maybe one day the Chinese government will also arrest the Hong Kong people to suppress Hong Kong people.”
On Tuesday, Ms Lam denied that her government had lost control. “We should prepare for reconciliation in society by communicating with different people,” she said. “We want to put an end to the chaotic situation in Hong Kong.”