Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China. Hong Kongers enjoy freedom of worship and evangelization, while in mainland China, by contrast, there is a long history of persecution for Christians who run afoul of the government.
An estimated 1 million protesters turned out at the first major demonstration June 6. Catholics have played a major role in the protests since then.
Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing, an auxiliary bishop of Hong Kong, has called for prayer, asking that the faithful pray the rosary.
Bishop Ha has taken part in ecumenical prayer rallies with protesters in the past, urged an increase in prayer and said he is concerned for the safety of the many young people involved in the protests. He told CNA in September that he urges “Friday fasting” as part of the prayer for peace in Hong Kong.
Though Chief Executive Carrie Lam in October withdrew the extradition bill, protests have continued, with the most recent violent clashes taking place around the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
An unidentified protester recently told the National Catholic Register that protesters have become divided into two camps, “the so-called ‘peaceful group’ and the so-called ‘fighting group,’” noting that the extradition bill was first suspended only after the fighting group engaged the police in a major conflict June 12.
Another young Hong Konger told the Register that his decision to join the protests was guided by his Catholic faith and his sense of civic duty as a Chinese citizen in Hong Kong.
“The most fundamental concern for me is the freedom of religion, followed by the freedom of thought and speech,” he said.
“We protest because we do not trust the Chinese Communist Party. The CCP has a pretty nasty history of suppressing Christianity and other religions in China. Also, there is virtually no freedom of speech in China.”
Since the protests have gone on, Beijing has instituted a travel ban for some Catholics seeking to enter the island, and Chinese officials are reportedly concerned that Catholics on the mainland could work with the Catholic Church in Hong Kong to inspire similar resistance.
Protesters are demanding that Lam resign for her failure to respond to their demands, as well as an independent inquiry into police tactics and universal suffrage throughout the island territory.
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Late into Tuesday evening, protesters at several locations around Hong Kong hurled Molotov cocktails at police who fired back volleys of tear gas, the Financial Times reports.
Another video released Nov. 10 showed a police officer shooting a masked protester in the chest at point-blank range in the street while grappling with another protester. Authorities reported that the protester who was shot is in hospital in critical condition.
Another video seems to show a masked assailant dousing a man on the street in flammable liquid and setting him on fire.
Last Friday, a 22-year-old protester died from injuries related to a fall.
Catholic leaders have continued to echo protesters’ calls for an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality.
“I ask the Lord to move the government of the special administrative region to respond to the public opinion, and set up an 'Independent Commission of inquiry' so that the community can begin with the truth and begin the path of real reconciliation,” Bishop Ha wrote on Facebook Oct. 21.