Pro-Beijing camps have spent the week blasting Occupy Central's plans to peacefully occupy Hong Kong's downtown to demand a genuinely democratic election of the city's next leader. More than 500 protesters were arrested at a sit-in last week that the organization called a rehearsal.
Joining the chorus is the archbishop of the Hong Kong Anglican Church, Paul Kwong, who has earned the ire of the movement after telling them to keep quiet, as Jesus did ahead of his crucifixion, in his Sunday sermon.
China has promised special administrative region Hong Kong a direct election of the next chief executive in 2017, but insists that a special committee nominate the candidates. Many citizens of the former British colony foresee China manipulating the committee to choose only pro-Beijing candidates, and so want the right to select the candidates themselves.
Kwong poked fun at protesters who participated in the overnight sit-in on July 1 for condemning the police because they were denied access to bathrooms, food and water for more than 10 hours after being arrested. He suggested the activists should “bring their Filipino domestic helpers along.”
“Why should we keep speaking out? As if we would turn dumb if we didn't,” he told his congregation. He compared the protesters to Jesus, saying that he did not speak out against his own death sentence: “He was like a lamb awaiting slaughter in silence.” He said those who joined the July 1 protest didn't have peace in their hearts or an analytical mind.
Kwong belongs to the Committee of Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CCPCC), a political advisory body for the Chinese Communist Party whose members normally put on a united front in support of the party. In 2013, he told two Hong Kong-based newspapers in an interview that Christian churches in China enjoyed much freedom, with no intervention. The statement also stirred great controversy within Christian circles in Hong Kong as all Christian churches have to register under the Three-Self Patriotic Movement and the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, which are under the supervision of the Chinese Communist Party.
The church has defended the archbishop, saying the sermon was taken out of context and not meant to be a public statement on the protests.
The archbishop's remarks haven't gone over well with members of the Occupy Central campaign. In fact, three of the main organizers, who take their inspiration from the American pastor Martin Luther King and his fight for civil rights, are Christian.
Joshua Wong, a 17-year-old student activist who led the campaign against a national education curriculum two years ago and organized the recent Occupy Central rehearsal, grew up in a Christian family. He explained on Facebook how Christian faith has motivated him to participate in the social movement:
還記得爸爸經常在家播放記錄片 《十字架耶穌在中國》，他總看得眼泛淚光。片中講述中國家庭教會從文革至今數十年來的變遷，信徒雖以億計急速增長，卻經常被共產黨打壓批鬥。他們愈被打壓，意志就愈堅定 […]
Church is my second family. I participated in church gatherings since I was still in my mother's belly and I received a Bible for children on my second birthday. My father has more than a thousand books about Christian faith on the living room's bookshelves. I grew up in this kind of Christian family.
Since I was 6 or 7 years old, my father brought me to visit families who lived in cubicle rooms (apartments divided into small compartments) and community shops. He told me to care about the forgotten ones in the community as they have never heard the Gospel and have been living alone with difficulties. As Christians, we could not play ignore that and just care about our own lives. My father is very devoted to Church-related activities and watches the revival of Christian faith in Hong Kong and China closely. […]
I still remember that whenever my father shows the documentary “Jesus in China” at home, he always has tears in his eyes. The film talks about family church in China since the Cultural Revolution. Although the number of Christians have been increasing rapidly, the oppression from the Chinese Communist Party has never ceased. However, the harsher the oppression, the stronger the will […]
The reason why I joined the social movement is faith; without faith I would have never joined. Without faith, I wouldn't have realized that we have to search for the value of life, to respect every individual as equal. God blesses everyone and they should be treated as equal.
Lam Tin Yu, who is also a Christian, responded to Archbishop Kwong with quotes from the Bible:
我們從新約聖經中可以略見一斑：耶穌在聖殿中向買賣的人發怒，推倒桌子和凳子，「我的殿必稱為萬國禱告的殿嗎？ 你們倒使它 成為賊窩了。」，又將他們趕走（馬可福音 11:15-17；約翰福音 2:16）；馬太福音二十三章提及到耶穌當面責備文士和法利賽人的時候，形容他們是假冒為善、瞎眼的人、粉飾的墳墓、毒蛇之種。每一個形容詞和責備都是鏗鏘有力，擲地有聲，為要以儆效尤。簡單看這些經文，我們得出一個結論：耶穌有完全的人性和完全的神性。
Let's read the Gospel: Jesus was outraged by the money changers inside the temple. He overthrew tables and chairs, yelling, “My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves”. (Mark 11:15-17; John 2:16); In Mark 23, Jesus confronted the scribes and the Pharisees, he called them hypocrites, blind guides, tomb builders, serpents and a generation of vipers, all are strong words because he wanted to make a statement about the wrongs. From the Bible verses, we can conclude that Jesus has embodied both human being and God.
Today, the disparity between the rich and poor is so serious, people are living in misery, freedom and democracy are restricted. Would Jesus, who embodies both human being and God, be silent?
Theologist Fung Wai Man compared Desmond Tutu, archbishop emeritus of the Anglican Church of South Africa who was active in the struggle against the country's system of racial discrimination known as apartheid, with Hong Kong's Kwong:
同是聖公會大主教的 Archbishop Tutu, 在南非種族隔離的抗爭關鍵時刻，也大可以套用鄺大主敎的「普選不是萬應靈丹」，「我們百多年也沒有普選」的理論。可幸這位南非大主教沒有如此，反而挺身而出，活出基督的樣式。今日南非和平非暴力成功過渡民主。Tutu 大主教是國家民族的祝福。[…]
Archbishop Tutu could have acted like Paul Kwong and said “universal suffrage cannot solve all problems” or “we didn't have universal suffrage in the past century” during the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. Fortunately this South African archbishop did not act like this. He chose to stand up and put his Christian faith into practice. Today, South Africa has transformed into a democratic state through non-violent peaceful struggle. Archbishop Tutu is a blessing for the country and its people. […]
I agree with Archbishop Kwong on one point that people should not only be concerned about their rights but also their responsibility. This is correct, as the election of the chief executive is not only Hong Kong people's right but also their responsibility. Such a responsibility should not be taken away.
Depriving people of it not only offends the individual, but offends God from the Christian point of view.