CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Will there be dialogue after weekend of peaceful rallies?

HONG KONG (SE): After nearly two million people flooding the streets of Hong Kong in peaceful protest yet again, the territory’s chief executive, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, emerged on the morning of August 20 to tell the press that she is willing to create a platform for dialogue but was not inclined to start an independent inquiry into police actions during a political crisis now entering its 12th week.
 
The South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported Lam as saying she would start approaching people who in the past had proposed talks. 
 
The SCMP also reported Anthony Neoh, who heads the Independent Police Complaints Council, as saying that the police alone could not restore calm to the city, but that a political solution was needed. He added that the government should not rule out convening a commission of inquiry once restorative steps had been taken, including bringing about reconciliation.
 
Three days of peaceful protest culminated with a gathering under stormy skies on August 18 at Victoria Park as 1.7 million Hongkongers (128,000 at its peak, according to the police) continued to press the government for some meaningful responses in light of the huge backlash against the controversial, now-suspended Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill.
 
The protest’s organisers, the Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF), originally asked for permission to march from Victoria Park to Chater Garden, but were denied by the police who asked them to keep the rally at the park. However long before the scheduled 3.00pm start, it became evident that there were more people arriving than could be accommodated and the numbers swelled to cram nearby MTR stations and spill over into the surrounding streets, all the way up to Admiralty.
 
By night’s end, however, there had been no physical confrontations between protesters and police and no tear gas fired.
 
The SCMP reported the convenor of the CHRF, Jimmy Sham Tsz-kit, as saying, “Today has been peaceful, which is exactly what (Hong Kong leader) Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor asked for … Lam must respond to the five demands in order to show Hongkongers’ peaceful and rational expression can be heard, accepted and met.” 
 
The demands are: full withdrawal of the controversial extradition bill; a retraction of characterisation of the protests as riots; the unconditional release of all arrested protesters; the formation of an independent commission of inquiry into all events since June; and universal suffrage.
 
Prior to the rally, more than 500 Catholics attended a prayer service at the Victoria Park music kiosk, organised by the Justice and Peace Commission of Hong Kong (JPC) and the Hong Kong Federation of Catholic Students, UCAN reported on August 20. 
 
Salesian Father Carlos Cheung Sam-yui told the gathering that the situation was not simply a matter of different political stances but also about conscience.
 
“We have been exposed to endless bleeding for more than two months. This is about people being abused by the government, people being falsely arrested by the police, people being unfairly prosecuted by the Department of Justice, people being threatened with white terror,” he said.
 
“Do we have no feeling in these at all? Dear sisters and brothers, where is our conscience? As Christians who are well familiar with words of justice, do we choose to remain silent when the world needs us to speak up?” he asked.
 
Father Cheung reminded people that the movement is not looking for short-term victories and it would be a long-term battle.
 
“Young people were massacred in Tiananmen Square on 4 June 1989. The same may happen again in Hong Kong. Therefore, we must show restraint. We should not sacrifice ourselves aimlessly for this evil regime,” he stressed.
 
Jackie Hung Ling-yu,a  project officer with the JPC said the rally was a peaceful one by people determined to express their demands.
 
“A responsible government should listen to public opinion, especially when more than a million people voice it in the streets. However, our Hong Kong government has not done it,” she said. 
 
John Cardinal Tong, the apostolic administrator of Hong Kong, is scheduled to celebrate a Mass on August 23 focusing on the situation in Hong Kong.

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