CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Church walks with protestors

HONG KONG (SE): Only a few days prior, on June 12, when the second reading of the bill was scheduled to take place, police unleashed tear gas and rubber bullets against protestors who had surrounded and charged the Legislative Council (Legco) Building, in scenes eerily reminiscent of the battles of the 79-day Umbrella Movement of 2014, resulting in injuries to around 80 people.
Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing of Hong Kong, met with the young protestors that evening at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, Wanchai, and listened to them for an hour. Also present were vicar general, Father Benedict Lam Cho-ming and parish priest, Father Thomas Law Kwok-fai. 
During the 8.00pm Mass the bishop expressed his understanding of the frustration felt by the young people, as neither the million-strong protest of June 9 nor that day’s protest outside the Legco Building seemed to change the mind of the government at that time. 
He was also touched to see the beautiful side of human nature as young people described how they helped each other during the protest even while chaos whirled around them.
The Diocese of Hong Kong issued a statement that day urging both the government and the protestors to exercise restraint and look for a solution in a peaceful and rational way. The Justice and Peace Commission also released a statement condemning the Hong Kong government for using violence against protestors. 
During another Mass on June 12, also at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, Joseph Cardinal Zen Ze-kiun, the former bishop of Hong Kong said it was sad to see Hong Kong’s young people driven to seek justice through street protest because of bad governance. He prayed for wisdom and exhorted those present to be rational, and reminded them that the Church does not encourage protestors to sacrifice their lives. 
Police commissioner, Stephen Lo Wai-chung, told a press conference on June 13 that 150 rounds of tear gas, 20 beanbag rounds and a number of rubber bullets were fired to disperse the crowd of protestors around the Legco Building on June 12. 
Lo walked back his labelling of the June 9 turmoil as “a riot” during a press conference on June 17.
“I was saying that, at the site, some used violence (against police), that’s why it was a riotous scene… I did not say the whole incident was a riot. I was saying that some people have committed rioting,” he said.
“Most of the other people who joined the public event were peaceful protesters. They did not need to worry that they committed rioting crimes,” media reported him as saying. 
He said that five out of 32 people arrested were suspected of committing riot-related offences. 

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