HOLDING WHAT ARE NOW CONSIDERED politically taboo beliefs is a common thread for Hong Kong’s exiles.
The Gospel Declaration that got Wong into trouble was written by the Hong Kong Pastors Network. They modeled it after the Barmen Declaration, which German churches wrote in opposition to Nazi policies. The Hong Kong version listed six spiritual principles, including “Jesus Christ is the one and only Lord of the Church,” to resist Beijing’s tightening grip.
Three thousand Christians signed the declaration. Ta Kung Pao took issue with a promotional video accompanying the declaration: The video depicted scenes from Hong Kong’s 2019 pro-democracy protests, prominently featured a now-illegal “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times” flag, and included historic clips from Nazi Germany.
If convicted of the crimes Ta Kung Pao accused him and others of committing, Wong could have faced up to 10 years in prison. Several other named pastors have decided to remain in Hong Kong and have not been arrested.
Today, Wong preaches each Sunday at a Cantonese worship service at Chi-nan Presbyterian Church in Taipei—one of the few Cantonese-language services in Taiwan. Wong said the church has grown rapidly as more Hong Kongers move to Taiwan. The Cantonese service, which began in September, has grown from about 30 people last year to 80 today, and Wong expects attendance to double in the fall as a new school year starts and the potential easing of COVID-19 restrictions brings another wave of immigrants.
Wong sees a great need for establishing more Cantonese churches in Taiwan as well as in Western countries expecting an influx of Hong Kong immigrants. While the United States and Canada already have Cantonese churches, he said most are populated by an older generation of Hong Kongers who left the city long ago and are more pro-establishment. Many of the new immigrants who left Hong Kong over dissatisfaction with the recent Beijing takeover don’t feel comfortable in these churches.
Wong knows of some Hong Kong pastors looking to start churches in the United Kingdom, yet the large size of these countries means it’s difficult to reach everyone. That’s why he joined his friend Douglas Reng Fu Wang, another new arrival to Taiwan, in doing online ministry for Christians who have moved overseas and don’t have access to a church, or who stayed inside Hong Kong and are no longer able to hear politically sensitive topics mentioned from the pulpit.
“Political upheavals occur continually in China, and there’s not much we common people can do.”—Douglas Reng Fu Wang
PICKING TAIWAN as a destination was easy for 50-year-old Douglas Wang, who holds a Taiwan passport and had studied and worked on the island before returning to Hong Kong 25 years ago. The former director of China Alliance Press, a Christian publishing company based in Hong Kong, he moved to Taiwan in January after hearing from friends that the Chinese government had taken notice of his involvement in pro-democracy activities. That made him a target for arrest should the government decide to crack down on churches. Ta Kung Pao had also named Wang as the initiator of a statement from Christians against the national security law. The newspaper claimed the statement would “poison young believers.”
In Hong Kong, Wang initially was not very involved in politics until he saw the heavy-handed police response to the 2019 protests—especially the July 21 Yuen Long attack where police conspired with Hong Kong’s mafialike triad groups. He then began to call out governmental injustice.
He put together a statement decrying police attacks, organized an event exploring the Christian ethics of protests, and started a livestream show bringing together pastors, seminary professors, and other Christians to speak on pressing issues of the day. The success of the show revealed Hong Kong Christians’ desire for more education, Wang said, as thousands tuned in to watch despite little advertising or resources.
Wang and other pastors noticed many young believers were leaving the church as pastors kept silent about the societal issues roiling Hong Kong. Meanwhile, some protesters began searching for faith as they saw the futility of political action. Wanting to create a space for these two groups, he started Glorious Worship Ministry in January 2020, originally as an in-person gathering featuring worship music and Bible teaching.
By the second meeting, the COVID-19 pandemic had forced all religious services to move online, where Glorious Worship Ministry has continued until now. He hopes soon to open it again to in-person gatherings for Hong Kongers in Taiwan.
Wang sees his move to Taiwan as part of a generational pattern: His father moved his family from mainland China to Hong Kong when Wang was 3 because of the Cultural Revolution. His grandparents moved to the Philippines for business opportunities. “Political upheavals occur continually in China, and there’s not much we common people can do,” Wang said. “All we can do is flee.”