CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Prayers for justice before million-strong rally against extradition bill

HONG KONG (SE): Church groups showed unity in opposing the Hong Kong government’s proposed extradition bill as around 1,000 people came together for a prayer service before joining the million-strong protest march, organised by the Civil Human Rights Front, on June 9, Pentecost Sunday.
The service took place at 2.30pm outside the Hong Kong Central Library, Causeway Bay. It was organised by the Justice and Peace Commission, the Hong Kong Christian Institute, the Christian Social Concern Fellowship, the City Concern of Christian Fellowship Hong Kong, the Umbrella City Cyberchurch as well as a number of other Protestant groups.
Father Jacob Kwok Wai-ki said that he believes the Holy Spirit led people to take to the streets that day. He said people rallied that day not because of a chance for victory, but to take part even though there might be no chance for victory, as they came to make history and show how Hong Kong people can unite in seeking justice and truth. 
He said that it is obvious that the Hong Kong government lied in claiming that many people in Hong Kong, including lawyers, legal scholars, the media, teachers, legislators as well as foreign diplomats or the consuls-general of the different countries represented in the city all misunderstood the bill when they aired concerns about political persecution or the lack of fair trials on the mainland.
Father Kwok stressed that speaking the truth is an important sign of love for our persecuted neighbours.
People were encouraged by the organisers of the rally to dress in white to symbolise light. Father Kwok noted that white also symbolised the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who changed history and is in control of history. 
He urged those present to pray for the nine people convicted for their participation in the Umbrella Movement earlier this April and those who would be arrested in the future should the extradition bill pass. 
He added that people who supported the legislation also need our prayers, as Jesus told us not to bear hatred against anyone.
Reverend Wu Chi-wai said the Church groups joined the rally and reasonably questioned the legislation as Christians have a duty to hold the government to account so that they will genuinely cater to the needs of the people and not deprive people of their rights. 
He said the Christian groups united in prayer to oppose the bill, not because any risk of its members being arrested. He stressed that negligence is also a sin if Christians fail to fight against unjust policies.
Angela Chan Tak-ha, who took part in the prayer service, expressed her concerns about the safety of Church people as well as that of her own as a Catholic should the law be passed. 
Helen Cheng Hei-ling, another participant, said she was worried that more religious suppression might come in the wake of the law. She said she could not trust the Chinese government after she saw how her uncle suffered from months’ detention in China after he brought a Bible there to be shared with others in 1980s.
The blessing and sending off prayer was led by Joseph Cardinal Zen Ze-kiun and all the clergy present, including vicar general Father Dominic Chan Chi-ming. Cardinal Zen said that the protest showed that the people of Hong Kong refuse to be slaves under unjust laws and urged those present to take part in a peaceful way.
Participants than joined the rally at Causeway Road at around 3.15pm.
The march was supposed to start at 3.00pm but police requested it start 10 minutes earlier due to the large number of people flowing to the Victoria Park, which was already filled up with white-clad participants, according to a report from the Apple Daily on June 9.
While the first group of participants arrived at the Legislative Council (Legco) Building in Admiralty by 4.00pm, there were so many people that a large number of them were still at Victoria Park waiting to start the march.  
The last group left Victoria Park around 7.30pm and reached Wanchai just past 9.00pm. The Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF) announced the end of the rally at around 10.00pm.
While the CHRF said the turnout was 1.03 million, the police claimed 270,000 people were present at the rally’s height. 
The government released a press release that night saying it had heard and respects the voices of the people in the rally but that a second reading of the bill would go ahead on June 12. It called for a rational discussion of the bill in Legco.
Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, met the media on June 10 and defended the extradition bill, saying the government was duty-bound to plug a legal loophole in extradition agreements and that the protest on Sunday showed more explanations about the bill are necessary.
Jackie Hung Ling-yu, a member of the CHRF and a project officer of the Justice and Peace Commission, said she had no expectations that the government would listen to the voice of the people as the chief executive is not an elected official.
Hung, who helped to organise the rally opposing the National Security Bill (Article 23) which was joined by half a million people in 2003 and led to the shelving of the bill, said the situation in Hong Kong has become quickly worse in the past decade as evidenced by many unbelievable incidents including the disqualification of duly elected legislators and heavy sentences handed down to political advocates. 
She hopes legislators will cast their votes against the bill and take into account the common good, as they were elected by the people. She also urged people not to give up and carefully cast their votes in the 2020 legislative elections.
As of the evening of June 11, a massive sea of protesters began gathering around the Legco offices and by midday on June 12, had surrounded the complex and blocked traffic. Meanwhile prayer vigils were ongoing at different churches around Hong Kong.
Meanwhile the legislature rescheduled the second reading of the controversial bill to a future date.

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