CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Prayers for reconciliation amid violence

HONG KONG (SE): Around 1,000 people gathered at the Victoria Park music pavilion in Causeway Bay at 2.00pm for a prayer service prior to joining the massive July 1 protest rally—this year marking 22 years since the handover to China.
The prayer service was organised by the Justice and Peace Commission, the Diocesan Commission for Labour Affairs, the Hong Kong Federation of Catholic students, the Hong Kong Christian Institute, the Christian Social Concern Fellowship as well as a number of other Protestant groups.
Civil Human Right’s Front (CHRF), the organiser of the annual rally raised five demands, including the stepping down of chief executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, the withdrawal of the extradition bill, the release of arrested protestors, a retraction of the “riot” classification of the protest on June 12, as well as an inquiry into the violence used by the police on June 12.
CHRF claimed the turnout for the rally was 550,000 people, while police said 190,000 people were present at its peak. 
During the prayer service, Father Jacob Kwok Wai-ki expressed mixed feelings as he recalled the series of incidents surrounding the extradition bill. He recalled that people at the June 9 rally felt hopeless, as they believed the bill would surely be passed after its second reading scheduled on June 12.
He lamented that it was painful to see how the police dealt with young, unarmed protestors outside the Legislative Building on that day. He said he understood why there are strong demands for an independent inquiry commission to look into what happened between the police and protestors. 
“We need an investigation into the truth, which will promote reconciliation,” he said.
Father Kwok said it was a pity that differing views on the extradition bill have harmed the relationship between the police and the general public, as well as between family members, groups and colleagues at work. He reminded people that hatred may lead to a culture of darkness which can blind people and make it hard for them to see the truth.
He encouraged young people to think critically after obtaining all the information on the issue and avoid being brainwashed and divided.
Reverend Chan Yan-ming, on the other hand, exhorted the gathering not to bring hatred, curses or violence to the streets, and to instead bear witness to Jesus Christ who humbly suffered torture and contempt before his crucifixion because he had fixed his eyes on God’s kingdom.
The Protestant pastor reminded protestors not to focus too much on the present nor be depressed over the lack of any short-term results. He said it was a pity that a number of young people, who could not see a good future, gave up their lives in disappointment at the lack of response from the Hong Kong government. 
Reverend Chan encouraged those present saying that the annual July 1 rally was not useless in the fight for democracy and to always persevere in faith.
Participants then prayed for the environment, people suffering from poverty, the young people suffering from stress of and the Church in Hong Kong.
One participant, Christina Tang Suk-ping, said she joined the rally because the government had not yet answered the demands. She said it should set up an inquiry commission if it has nothing to hide.
She said took part in the July 1 rally every year because she believes the demand for universal suffrage is one of the keys to resolving the conflicts in Hong Kong.
Wendy Wut, another participant, said an inquiry would help to appease the public who have serious doubts about how the police handled the protestors on June 12.
The rally finally got going at around 2.50pm, with the vanguard arriving at Chater Road, Central, at around 4.00pm, while the last group arrived at around 8.40pm, according to the Apple Daily.
The end point was changed to Chater Garden, Central, due to ongoing clashes between the police and radical protestors in Admiralty who had been gathered at Harcourt and Lung Wo Roads since around 4.00am. 
From around 1.30pm onwards, protestors tried to storm into the Legislative Council Building, finally breaking through at around 9.00pm and vandalising the venue for three hours as around 1,000 police stationed inside retreated, according to the South China Morning Post.
Protestors began dispersing around midnight as riot police returned in force to retake the building and clear the surrounding streets until about 1.00am. 
At a 4.00am press conference on July 2, Lam condemned the violence and vandalism. On the other hand, police commissioner, Stephen Lo Wai-chung, rejected the suggestion that the police retreat of was a stunt to gain public support. He explained that the indoor environment made it difficult for police to use tactics that could be used on open ground. 
The Colloquium of Six Religious Leaders of Hong Kong issued a statement after young protesters occupied and vandalised the Legislative Council Building on July 1.
The colloquium called on the people of Hong Kong to stay calm and resist any acts that undermine the law, harm peace or cause violent harm to others.
They urged people to express their opinions in a rational and peaceful manner. 
On the other hand, they urged the government and those opposing the protests to both listen to other opinions and communicate in a sincere manner.

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