CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Violence will only generate more violence bishop warns

HONG KONG (SE): While protests against the now-suspended extradition bill have entered a new phase of more violent clashes and a citywide strike, Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing of Hong Kong, said during a Mass at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, Wanchai, on August 5, that political problems have to be solved by political means and that any attempt to calm down public sentiment using the police will not work. He also urged Christians to be the instruments of peace amid the chaos.
 
That Monday, Hongkongers woke up to a morning of transport disruptions as protesters launched non-cooperation actions at different MTR stations. Around 350,000 people from different sectors of society joined the Hong Kong-wide strike, according to the Confederation of Trade Unions. 
 
Bishop Ha said he understood that people taking part in the strike sacrificed their time to show their united demand for the government to find ways to bring a resolution to the public’s discontent, which has lasted as long as two months.
 
He also understood the fatigue of the police as they carried out their duties, but he does not believe that a law enforcement body can solve the city’s problems.  “A political problem has to be solved by political means,” he said.
 
Remarking on what the chief executive, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, said in her 10.00am press conference at that day, the bishop said she had missed the point. “It is a pity that the government has missed the chance to appease the sentiment of the people again and again for certain reasons. It makes us more and more worried,” he said.
 
Lam, who had been conspicuous by her non-presence since July 22, said, “this series of extremely violent acts is pushing Hong Kong to a very dangerous situation, some extreme activists have altered the nature of these (protests), resorting to violent means to express their aspirations.”
 
She said the actions “threaten One country, Two systems, and will destroy the city’s prosperity and stability,” and accused protesters of trying to destroy the city and gambling with the livelihood of seven million people in Hong Kong. She also pointed out that the Chinese flag was thrown into Victoria Harbour by protesters on August 3.
 
Lam doubled down on her refusal to consider the demands put forward, including the clearly stated withdrawal of the extradition bill; the setting up of an impartial, independent commission of inquiry to get to the truth of what led to the unrest and violence; the withdrawal of the term “riot” in characterising the protests of June 12; the unconditional release of all arrested protesters without charges; and her resignation as chief executive.
 
She reiterated previous statements, dodged taking responsibility for the societal unrest sparked by the attempt to ramrod the extradition bill through the legislature and, apart from calling for people to come together to restore peace and order, made no mention of any initiatives or solutions on the part of the government to end the crisis.
 
Bishop Ha believes violence by protesters and police alike will only generate more violence. 
 
He worried that hatred on both sides might take deep root in society leading to unbearable consequences. He urged Christians to be the instruments of peace and to have confidence in Jesus, like the child in the miracle of the five loaves and two fish who contributed all he had with faith.
 
One person who attended the Mass said he applied for a day off even though it might cause some minor problems. He said he had joined peaceful rallies before, but they did not seem to work and thought a strike could be a good way to get the government to hear the concerns of the public as it directly threatens economy.
 
Josephine Lau said joining the strike was not difficult for her as she worked for a Catholic organisation which respects such rights.
 
Since the afternoon of August 4, a crucifix had been placed on the altar instead of an image of the resurrected Christ. Father Thomas Law Kwok-fai, parish priest, told the Sunday Examiner that it was to remind people to seek help from Jesus in the these difficult times and to bear their cross for the well-being of all.
 
Lawrence An Chung-yuk, former secretary general of the Hong Kong Catholic Commission for Labour Affairs, spoke about the right of workers to go on strike and his observations about the extradition bill incidents during a morning talk. 
 
An said that according to St. Pope John Paul II’s 1981 encyclical, Laborem Exercens (Through Work), employees have the right to go on strike. It is recognised in Catholic social teaching as legitimate in proper conditions and within just limits; people need to find a balance between the public good and what they demand. 
 
An said the attack in Yuen Long on July 21, in which Hongkongers saw people being assaulted without reason and without the protection of tahe police, was the trigger point for more violent protests. He also noted that while protesters used the slogan, Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our times, they are not talking about a revolution against the regime. “They only want to get back what has been lost in Hong Kong, like love and justice,” he explained. 
 
He said that, while Hong Kong seems to be on the path to a police state, it is important for Christians to remember not to bear hatred while being angry and not to be intimidated while having fear.
 
An told the Sunday Examiner that it was reasonable for people to go on strike considering that the government, for the past two months, has not shown any intention of listening to their demands, some of which were not difficult to meet, like officially declaring the extradition bill withdrawn.
 
He also expressed disappointment with the chief executive’s press conference noting she condemned only the violence done by protesters, but failed to address the violence used by the police, especially against residents in protest areas or the journalists, which was believed to be a way to vent its anger against the public instead of maintaining law and order. 
 
Even Lam’s pro-government allies were disappointed, RTHK reported Liberal Party legislator, Felix Lam, as saying, “I don’t want her (Lam) to just come out and say, ‘I condemn this and condemn that’, and then go back to the office. I really do hope that she can give us some really positive attitude, and how to settle the crisis we have right now.”
 
Peaceful sit-ins had been scheduled in seven districts on August 5, including Admiralty, Tsuen Wan and Shatin. Sadly, as has been the case recently, the largely peaceful protests began well but gradually descended into anarchy and rage, as some radical protesters went their own way and battled the police all across Hong Kong, with violent clashes erupting in Wong Tai Sin, Tin Sui Wai, Tsuen Wan and North Point. Protesters also targeted police stations in Mong Kok, Sham Shui Po and Tin Shui Wai. 
 
It was well past midnight before the unrest began to die down.

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