CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Spreading the word on torture claimants

HONG KONG (SE): The Society of St. Vincent de Paul Central Council Hong Kong organised a visit for around 100 people to the residences of torture claimants and asylum seekers in Hong Kong on June 25 in order to promote a greater knowledge and better understanding of their real situation and plight.

The event was part of a campaign to support asylum seekers and torture claimants in Hong Kong and was organised by the ad hoc committee of the Jubilee of Mercy and the St. Vincent de Paul.

John Cardinal Tong Hon, Bishop Michael Yeung Ming-cheung and the vicar general, Father Dominic Chan Chi-ming, the spiritual director of St. Vincent de Paul, together with members of the society and volunteers paid a visit to 40 families in Yuen Long.

The tour began with a briefing at Caritas Chan Chun Ha Secondary School, Yuen Long, at which Cardinal Tong blessed the group and encouraged them to follow the example of St. Vincent de Paul and serve the torture claimants with a heart reflecting the love of Christ.

Cardinal Tong visited two families himself and listened to their stories and explanations of the difficult situation of their children. He also spent some time in prayer with a Catholic family and blessed them.

After the visits, a debriefing session was held at the school. Bishop Yeung said that torture claimants often feel helpless in the face of their difficulties. He thanked the group for its expression of mercy by showing interest in them, which he said for people in difficult situations is a real sign of hope.

“Because of your visit and helping hand, the families feel cared for and know that there is love in the world,” he said.

Prior to the visit, Maurice Yeung Kwok-leung, president of the central council in Hong Kong, told the Chinese-language Kung Kao Po that many torture claimants have been in Hong Kong for many years and some of their children are grown-ups already.

He said he has seen many struggles during his regular visits to them and hopes that the campaign being run by the St. Vincent de Paul society will attract more attention to the plight of their irregular situation in Hong Kong. 

Four students from Caritas Chan Chun Ha Secondary School took part in the visit. Fung Shi-hang, from secondary four, said he met asylum seekers for the first time.

Fung explained that he could see that they live in poor conditions, with cracks in the walls and roofs covered with newspaper. “The visit reminds me to cherish what I have at present and to help people when I have the ability,” he reflected.

Lee Wai-man, from Holy Redeemer Parish Conference of the St. Vincent de Paul, who pays regular visits to the refugees, said many torture claimants are living with limited resources in Hong Kong while awaiting adjudication on their asylum claims.

He added that because of this limbo situation, their children face many difficulties in their studies. “We invite them regularly to their parishes for various activities so that they can make a few friends and not feel lonely,” he explained.

Chan Pik-yi, from the Church of the Annunciation, went on the visit with her 11-year-old daughter, who brought some English storybooks to share with the children of the asylum seeker families.

“My daughter considers them as friends, regardless of the difference in nationality and culture. We can see a racial harmony and equality here,” Chan pointed out.

On the same morning, Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing, together with around 40 people visited a total of 38 families in To Kwa Wan. 

They gathered at Mary Help of Christians parish, Ma Tau Wei, beforehand and for a debriefing afterwards.

An introduction on the situation of the refugees and torture claimants in Hong Kong was held at the Diocese Centre on May 21.

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