The Catholic church in Hong Kong is facing internal pressure to keep quiet about politics. In late August, Cardinal John Tong Hon issued a letter to clergy, cautioning them to watch their speech and exclude political opinions from homilies: “Words that insinuate or incite hatred along with libelous, offensive speech conducive to societal unrest are against the Christian spirit. They are absolutely inappropriate during service.”
Hong Kong diocese leaders opposed a Justice and Peace Commission crowdfunding campaign to print a prayer for democracy in the pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, according to a commission Facebook post on Aug. 29. The original text mentioned God’s deliverance “from slavery and oppression,” which could be construed as anti-government, the South China Morning Post reported. Another group of Catholics decided to buy the ad space and print the prayer in early September.
Pro-Beijing media have also attacked pastors who support democracy. State-owned Hong Kong newspaper Ta Kung Pao accused Pastor Chu Yiu-ming of working with a pastor in Taiwan to help convicted Hong Kong activists flee to Taiwan. Chu denies any connection with the pastor or participation in the fugitives’ escape.
Ta Kung Pao also targeted Hong Kong Pastors Network, accusing the group of infiltrating and brainwashing believers with the intent to instigate secession. The outlet criticized a video the group posted to Facebook in June titled “Hong Kong 2020 Gospel Declaration,” claiming the montage of news clips spread hatred toward the police and contained elements of secession and subversion. The group has deleted the video but refuted the political accusations in a statement, insisting on the evangelistic intention of the video to establish believers’ faith in turbulent times.
In the aftermath, two core members of the network have fled Hong Kong, Christian Times reported. Wong Siu-yung and William Yeung had been outspoken during the protest movement and were among the pastors singled out by state media.
“It’s as if we’re walking through a dark tunnel today and don’t see the end,” said professor Ying Fuk-tsang of the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s divinity school, at a prayer meeting livestreamed by Hong Kong Pastors Network last week. Ying reminded viewers: “We as Christians must live out light in the darkness, letting love and goodness guide us because we have the values of the kingdom of heaven in sight. … Remember we are not light ourselves, but in the Lord’s true light, we can live out this light.”