CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Battle for hearts and minds of the people


HONG KONG (SE): “It is 15 years since the soil of Hong Kong returned to China, but the hearts of the people did not return with it,” Father Stephen Chan Moon-hung told around 900 people gathered around the kiosk for a prayer service in Victoria Park prior to the July 1 rally.

However, the spiritual director of the Justice and Peace Commission added that in those 15 years since the handover of Hong Kong from British to Chinese sovereignty, China has chalked up some amazing achievements.

Speaking on the 15th anniversary of the handover, Father Chan pointed out that China has learned how to manipulate the weather, developed the expertise to stage an Olympic Games and put people into space, but what it has not been able to do is to win the hearts and minds of the people of Hong Kong.

As the people prayed, tens of thousands from the professional ranks of society to domestic workers filed determinedly into the giant park to begin the trek to the government offices, in what was an expression of malcontent over the appointment of Leung Chun-ying as the new chief executive of the territory, frustration over soaring property prices and rents, stifled democracy, perceived meddling in local affairs by Beijing, the ever widening income gap and gagging of freedom of expression.

The prayer service was organised by the Justice and Peace Commission and prayers were offered for the wellbeing of the people of both Hong Kong and the mainland. The people prayed for justice, freedom of the media and speech, democracy and respect for each and every individual.

“This is the darkest year since the handover,” Lina Chan Lai-nga, a project officer with the commission, said in welcoming people to the prayer service.

“I worry that the core values of Hong Kong, like freedom of the press and the freedom of ordinary citizens to express themselves in a creative manner are gradually being eroded,” she continued.

Chan added that she believes Catholic people have a contribution to make in protecting these core values, as faith can bring hope.

“Faith, hope and love can lead us to the light,” she pointed out.

Lo Shuk-yee, a journalist, said that she too believes that freedom of the press is being eroded.

She cited the example of the journalist who was detained by plainclothes police on June 30 for shouting a question about the Tiananmen Square Massacre to the president of China, Hu Jintao, during his visit to Hong Kong, as a sure sign that freedom is being attacked.

She added that the self-censorship practiced by many media outlets in the territory is also suicidal in terms of media freedom, as she believes that it will contribute to its death.

Lo added that as the authorities chip away at the freedom of the media the work of Catholic journalists becomes more and more difficult.

“The cross they bear will get heavier and heavier,” she noted, “but I believe that Jesus will walk with them.”

A teacher, Ng Kwok-ming, said that the newly introduced national and moral education, which is being imposed on schools by the government, is yet another sign of the erosion of freedom in the territory.

He described it as being too limited to be worthy of the name education and said that students should not be limited in their thinking.

“I love China,” he went on, “because it has people like Li Wangyang and Liu Xiaobo.”

However, he added that the national and moral education syllabus in Hong Kong is more about loving the Communist Party than loving the country.

“It is not suitable for schools,” he stressed.

In the heat of the afternoon the gathering listened as a reading from the Book of Samuel described how the people cried out for a king and refused to listen to words of the prophet warning them of the dangers of dictatorial rule.

“This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots” (Samuel 8:11-14).

Father Chan drew a parallel between what he called the brainwashing of the national and moral education syllabus and Samuel’s warning about the danger of absolute monarchs.

He added that although the people both want and need a leader, they are entitled one that will rule with principle and for the common good, not just in the interests of a wealthy elite or power group.

He said he thinks that it for this reason that the hearts of the people did not return to China when the territory did and many of those hearts actually resist returning.

Father Chan said that Hong Kong saw the handover as being a return of freedom, but sadly that freedom has not yet materialised. 

He called on people to pray and work for freedom, and for the recognition of the dignity of every human being.

“We pray to God for a good ruling party,” Father Chan said. “We believe an anti-Christ party is not one that God wants.”

The Commission on Labour Affairs distributed leaflets at the gathering calling for a universal pension in Hong Kong.

It points out that the Mandatory Provident Fund, which is jointly funded by employers and personal contributions is not an adequate safeguard for people’s sunset years, as not all have the opportunity to work.

It notes that those who have not been employed cannot always live out their later years on their savings and that they have both the need for and the right to a pension.

It proffered the figure of $3,000 a month as being a minimum amount needed for a person’s basic needs.

The prayer service ended with a blessing led by the Reverend Po Kam-cheong, the secretary general of the Hong Kong Council of Christian Churches, and the 16 priests and ministers present at the gathering, as the people set off to join the huge crowd on its march through the city streets.


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