ucanews.com reporter, Hong KongUpdated: July 10, 2017 09:26 AM GMT
Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, retired bishop of Hong Kong, participates in the July 1 rally. (ucanews.com photo)
On the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to China two Catholic bishops urged Christians not to lose hope and look for God's will, despite some aspects of the city's status and society deteriorating.
Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-sing of Hong Kong told a prayer gathering on July 1 that many issues like the development of democracy, wealth disparity, housing affordability and labor rights had not improved despite people's efforts over many years.
"It has been 20 years since the handover. The 'one country, two systems' and talk of a 'high degree of autonomy' are empty words. I feel tired too," the bishop said.
"Nowadays Hong Kong diffuses hopelessness, worry and resentment. How can we walk further? We have to pray to God that we won't give up even though we cannot see immediate results," he said.
More than 300 Christians joined the prayer gathering organized by the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission, Hong Kong Federation of Catholic Students (HKFCS) and four other Christian organizations.
Since 2003 the prayer gathering has been held in Hong Kong's Victoria Park before an annual pro-democracy rally. This year it was forced to make way for a pro-Beijing group celebrating the handover and moved indoors to a Methodist Church.
Hugo Lam, president of HKFCS, observed that the situation in the city has gotten worse over the past 20 years.
"Especially on democratic elections, we hope there will be universal suffrage. Also the police force and the rule of law, which Hong Kong people used to be proud of, have decayed," the 24-year-old Catholic told ucanews.com.
But he insisted on joining the prayer gathering and rally since he believed these actions show a Christian has hope in God.
Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, retired bishop of Hong Kong, led Catholic priests and Christian pastors and gave a blessing to the participants before the gathering ended.
While asking God to grant the people of Hong Kong passion, courage, wisdom and humility, he said, "Let us put hope in God. He can make the impossible possible."
The cardinal, 85, also participated in the subsequent rally along with an estimated 60,000 people. It was much lower than last year's rally attended by 110,000 people.
Au Nok-hin, convener of the Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF), which organized the pro-democracy rally in 2003, believed the smaller turnout was because the current Chief Executive of Hong Kong has a better public image than her predecessor CY Leung.
Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, a practicing Catholic, was sworn in as the new Chief Executive on July 1 in the presence of Chinese President Xi Jinping, who made his first visit to Hong Kong as head of state this year from June 29-July 1.
But Au warned that the anger of the Hong Kong people had not faded away and urged Beijing to pay attention to tensions around the "one country, two systems" principle.
The "one country, two systems" principle promises a high degree of autonomy to Hong Kong but Beijing's continued interference in local affairs has irked locals. They charge that the interference has eroded the rule of law that the city has been proud of in the past.