The burgeoning pro-democracy protest movement that filled the streets of Hong Kong last month showed a significant degree of Christian inspiration and leadership, according to a report on National Public Radio (Oct. 9).
Hong Kong’s Occupy Central group first announced that it was planning pro-democracy demonstrations last year in a church in the city’s Kowloon section. The group’s full name is Occupy Central with Love and Peace, in the Christian Spirit, and its top leaders included a minister and a law professor who is Christian. There is a strong presence especially among the older generations of the pro-democracy leaders, many of whom were educated in missionary schools, according to political scientist and activist Joseph Cheng, who is Christian himself. “There is this Christian spirit. You are more willing to suffer. Social justice means more to you,” he adds.
Another reason for the strong Christian involvement in the movement is their general opposition to the Communist Party. “If you are a Christian in China, if you are a Christian in Hong Kong, you know the Chinese Communist regime has been suppressing Christianity for more decades,” Cheng says. The country has recently experienced one of the toughest crackdowns on Christianity in many years; in the east China province of Zhejiang, officials have ordered crosses removed from and even the destruction of government-approved churches. David Zweig, a long-time political observer, says that the Chinese Communist Party is most likely viewing the Christian connection in Hong Kong warily.
But others say that the protest movement is not faith-based and that several prominent Protestant pastors have come out against the protests, reflecting their conservative political stance. Some protestors have also infused their activism with other religious sources. In one neighborhood, protestors have built a shrine to an ancient Chinese general known as Guan Gong, seen by devotees as offering them protection from opponents.