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Maturity born out of social division

JUST ONE YEAR ago, tear gas fired by the police saw tens of thousands of people add to those already massed in Admiralty and the Umbrella Movement declared open. The occupation of the streets was to last for 79 days. When it unwillingly drew to close, we were left with slogans like, “I want genuine universal suffrage”, “Continue the path to democracy”, “Don’t forget our original intention” and “Hong Kong has rejuvenated.”

The experience of the movement has enabled Hong Kong people to mature, reinforcing an understanding of the importance of the universal values of democracy, freedom, rule of law, love and peace.

However, it neither changed the August 31 decision of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, nor coerced the Hong Kong government to withdraw from or revise the contentious electoral reform proposal.

Ultimately, it was the Legislative Council that vetoed it. In face of the unachievable universal suffrage and the unchanged political situation, young people and the masses who joined the petition were left feeling powerless, incompetent and helpless.

However, it did have an impact on people’s thinking, giving a clearer idea of what kind of universal suffrage is desirable: an election beyond self-interest for the benefit of everyone and future generations.

It showed another side of today’s young people, portraying them as independent thinking with a clear understanding of their own appeal. Within the restricted space, they had freedom of expression and artistic creation, demonstrating the spirit of mutual help and friendship.

The cross, which symbolises peace, charity and forgiveness, appeared in the districts of Admiralty and Mong Kok. Prayer, Mass and sharing spread unity and joy throughout the occupied areas.

At the same time, the cross reminded Christians that they should witness to Christ’s love and truth, despite differences in views, because Jesus on the cross reminds people to forgive, resolve conflict and make peace.

Hong Kong society has witnessed the intensification of the conflict over political reform, the rich-poor gap, housing, medical care and its relationship with China. The social split is an incontestable reality and has deepened since the Umbrella Movement was brought to an end.

The worry is that few people in society have mentioned tolerance, understanding and commitment, or reflected on the cost of or remedy for division.

Church social teaching reminds us to cherish the noble value of human dignity, which prompts respect for, rather than extermination of those who take a different political stand. When expressing political views, there should be no verbal violence or malicious language, which are a death knell for rational discussion.

While there have been suggestions of setting up think tanks to reflect wisely on the Umbrella Movement, the Church puts a higher priority on faith. As its social teaching tells us, “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ” (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, #1).

Faith demands a conversion of hearts and a putting aside of hatred to achieve reconciliation. May we, in our lives, pay mutual respect, show our care for the weak and build a just and peaceful society with the inclusive love of Christ. SE