CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Praying for the soul of Hong Kong on July 1

HONG KONG (SE): Consciousness of gathering in an atmosphere of increasing political suppression dominated the mood of around 300 people who prayed in music and words at the performance space in Victoria Park prior to joining the annual handover rally on July 1.

Sam Fong Wing-fong said that he decided to attend the prayer meeting because he believes that if people in Hong Kong are ever going to achieve what they want, they must keep insisting on it.

He noted that although he is disappointed that the 2014 Umbrella Movement did not achieve more, he is quite disillusioned at the number of bizarre incidents occurring in the city, which appear to have been orchestrated just to appease the authorities in Beijing.

He cited the push to introduce national education into kindergartens and import doctors from the mainland as two things that illustrate an attitude of sycophantic subservience to Beijing on the part of the local administration.

He added that these are just some of the things that tell him that the people must stay in the streets even though their action does not appear to bear much fruit. “We cannot give up and let these sorts of things happen,” Fong continued.

Brother William Ng Wei-lit told the gathering he believes that what he described as an increase in white terror in the city is prompting the sudden up in the exodus level of people from the special administrative region.

The Franciscan brother said that he was shocked by the recent movie, Ten Years, which portrays Hong Kong in 2025 as the butt of horrific human rights abuse, but he will choose to remain in the territory, as it is his home and a time to strengthen the spiritual life of the city and not to abandon it.

A desire to see fair and just policies that serve the real needs of Hong Kong people and not only big business emerged as the major theme at the ecumenical gathering, with a proper and effective retirement scheme at the top of the wish list.

The gathering also prayed that the Christian presence in Hong Kong may be a source of unity in what is becoming an increasingly divided population and Brother Ng said that he believes we have examples in our Christian tradition that can inspire healing and unity in today’s politically splintered Hong Kong.

He told the story of St. Francis brokering a reconciliation between a mayor and a bishop in the town where he lived, saying that he encouraged both of them to rise above their political differences and treat their people as their brothers and sisters.

He added that Hong Kong is in grave need of a reshuffle in its value system and that a commitment to live with greater simplicity and a bit more humility could renew the traditional cultural values of welcome for the stranger and care for those who get left out of the economic pie, as well as embrace the non-Chinese people for whom Hong Kong is home.

Brother Ng pointed out that this means placing human values ahead of monetary concerns, but it would lead to the creation of a healthier, more people-friendly and harmonious society.

Father Carlos Cheung Sam-yui read a letter penned by Joseph Cardinal Zen Ze-kiun, who was unable to attend the prayer gathering due to illness.

“A foolish government continues to ignore the rage of its good-hearted citizens… Grandpa is still in hospital. Who will go to the rally? Not a single one can be missed,” the former bishop of Hong Kong wrote from his sick bed.

However, various people had their own reasons for attending the rally. Leo Choi Yiu-sun explained that he does not need any special trigger to get him out on July 1, as he can see many unjust things going on in Hong Kong society.

Father Reginaldus Amleni said coming to the rally was a first for him, but he explained that he is conscious that the freedom of the people has been threatened by several incidents that have occurred in the city recently.

He cited the case of the banned bookseller, Lam Wing-kee, in October last year as an example.

It had been announced that Lam would lead the march through the streets of Causeway Bay, Wan Chai, Central and Admiralty this year, but he pulled out, citing threats to his personal safety.

The prayer gathering concluded with a blessing from all the clergy present before people gathered behind a banner reading, To love our neighbour with the heart of the kingdom of God, sow the seeds of hope by acting justly, then as a group, processed to join those massing in the giant park for the beginning of the rally.

The Civil Human Rights Front, which organises the rally, put the participation level at 110,000, but the police, who use a much narrower assessment basis, reckoned 19,300 at its peak.

An ongoing discussion is taking place among intellectuals and rights advocates in the city over the effectiveness of the rally and many younger people are moving towards more unconventional methods of protest.

Some say that they have become so frustrated that they consider all protest useless.

The chief executive of Hong Kong, Leung Chun-ying, marked the 19th anniversary of the end of British rule by promising more economic development.

Official celebrations for the day were low key, out of respect for two firefighters who lost their lives in Ngau Tau Kok in June, but Leung vowed to uphold the core values of the city.

The president of China, Xi Jinping, said that the central government would continue to support Leung in implementing the principles of one country, two systems and Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong.

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