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Benedict Rogers

Hong Kong will have its resurrection

Hong Kongers will not give up but hope Pope Francis will at least pray for them this Holy Week
Published: March 25, 2024 04:21 AM GMT

Updated: March 25, 2024 06:33 AM GMT

People gather to protest against Hong Kong's new national security law outside the Chinese consulate in Los Angeles on March 23.

People gather to protest against Hong Kong's new national security law outside the Chinese consulate in Los Angeles on March 23. (Photo: AFP)

Hong Kong’s draconian new security law — known colloquially as “Article 23” — took effect on March 23. That day, I joined hundreds of Hong Kongers at a protest in London.

In my speech, I said that it is now up to those of us outside Hong Kong to continue to speak out, as it is far too dangerous for anyone in Hong Kong to do so. Those of us around the world who enjoy basic freedoms must use them on behalf of those whose freedom has been dismantled.

A few hours after the protest, I went to a concert, on the eve of Palm Sunday. The program included Mozart’s Vesperae Solennes de Confessore and Sinfonia Concertante, and it ended with Hayden’s Theresienmesse.

The first words of Vesperae Solennes de Confessore, translated from Latin, are: “The Lord said until my Lord: Sit thou on my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool. The Lord shall send the rod of thy power out of Sion: be thou ruler even in the midst among thine enemies.”

Theresienmesse begins with these words in Latin: “Kyrie eleison. Christe eleison. Kyrie eleison” (“Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.”) It ends with “Dona nobis pacem” (“Give us peace”).

As we journey through Holy Week, remembering the Passion of Christ and preparing to celebrate His resurrection at Easter, let us pray those words for Hong Kong. Lord have mercy.

"The new security law represents the hammering in of the last nails in Hong Kong’s cross"

And let us remember that while the architects of the new security law — coming on top of the National Security Law imposed on the city by Beijing four years ago — argue that these laws have brought an end to the protests and conflicts of 2019, they have in no way created any meaningful “peace.” They have silenced dissent but at the cost of destroying Hong Kong as we once knew it.

In their hearts, most Hong Kongers yearn for the freedoms, autonomy and rule of law they once enjoyed. They may no longer be able to express it, but their anger with their “enemies” in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and Beijing’s quislings in the Hong Kong government burns strongly. They long for the day when their enemies are made their “footstool.”

Let us not forget that history shows dictators do not last forever. This Holy Week, let us remember that the Crucifixion is not the end of the story. After the dark night comes the dawn of the Resurrection.

For now, however, Hong Kong has been plunged further into the darkness of Calvary. Fast-tracked through the legislature in just 11 days, with minimum scrutiny, no meaningful debate and Pyongyang-style unanimous approval, the new security law represents the hammering in of the last nails in Hong Kong’s cross. The noose around Hong Kong has been further tightened.

Hong Kong has lost most of its freedoms over the past four years since the imposition of Beijing’s National Security Law. Over 66 civil society organizations have been forced to shut down, almost all independent media closed, and the pro-democracy camp expelled from the Legislative Council. Politicians, activists, journalists and lawyers have been jailed, books that are critical of the CCP banned and protests outlawed.

Singing “Glory to Hong Kong” — the anthem of the 2019 protests — can land you in jail and wearing black — the color of the protesters — can get you arrested. Even speech therapists who published a book about sheep and wolves deemed by the regime to carry a political message were imprisoned.

In the trial of 76-year-old entrepreneur, devout Catholic, and British citizen Jimmy Lai, founder of the Apple Daily newspaper, his communications — pre-dating the National Security Law — with several foreign nationals, including myself, have been cited as evidence of collusion with foreign forces. Those communications were not only perfectly legal at the time, but completely normal, yet the security law is now being applied retrospectively.

Even more alarmingly, the prosecution is building its case against Lai largely on the testimony of Andy Li, a young activist whose evidence has been ruled inadmissible by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, because it has been coerced through torture. For a city that built its reputation as an international financial center on the rule of law, this is a grim development.

"It was hard to imagine the situation getting even worse. But the new security law ushers in an even darker era"

Among Hong Kong’s hundreds of other political prisoners are most of the 47 former legislators and activists arrested on Jan. 6, 2021. Their only “crime” was holding a primary election to choose their candidates for what should have been the 2020 Legislative Council elections. Those elections were postponed, and a new election law disenfranchised the entire pro-democracy camp by permitting only proven pro-Beijing candidates to stand. With a few exceptions, most of the 47 have been in prison for over three years, awaiting trial and denied bail.

Chow Hang-tung, a prominent barrister and activist who organized the annual vigil to commemorate the Tiananmen Square massacre, has been in jail for almost three years. Last year the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded that her “deprivation of liberty” is indeed “arbitrary”.

The cases of Jimmy Lai, Chow Hang-tung and the 47 illustrate how the rule of law and basic freedoms in Hong Kong have already been dismantled. It was hard to imagine the situation getting even worse. But the new security law ushers in an even darker era.

Under the new law, arrestees could be denied access to a lawyer, and police could detain people without charge for up to seven days. Some 39 new criminal offenses have been created, providing for lengthy jail sentences. Anyone convicted of seditious intent could be jailed for seven years; colluding with a foreign force could result in ten years in prison; and possessing a seditious publication carries a three-year sentence. The vaguely defined crime of “espionage” is punishable by 20 years in prison. “Treason” is punished by life imprisonment.

Perhaps most ominous is the provision that anyone “failing to disclose the commission of treason by others” could face 14 years in jail. Questions have been raised about the threats to the sacred “Seal of Confession” which upholds the confidentiality of the Sacrament of Penance (or Confession) in churches as sacrosanct after the Secretary for Justice Paul Lam said it would be “very difficult to create exceptions” for clergy.

The Catholic diocese in Hong Kong has issued a brief statement claiming that the new law “will not alter the confidential nature of Confession after 16 international religious freedom experts expressed concern, but some priests fear spies could be sent into churches or confessionals could be bugged.

The international community has condemned this repression. Eighty eight international parliamentarians and public figures, including the last British governor of Hong Kong Lord Patten, issued a statement when the law was passed last week, as have the British Foreign Secretary Lord David Cameron, the United States, the European Union and others.

The Vatican, however, has so far stayed silent. This Holy Week, I hope Pope Francis will at least pray for Hong Kong.

I have just finished reading Austin Ivereigh’s moving new book, First Belong to God: On Retreat With Pope Francis. Writing with Easter in mind, Ivereigh notes that “what the Resurrection will bring about is an unveiling of the way evil works.”

After the Resurrection, followers of our Lord will “record, exactly and truthfully, what happened: Jesus, the Son of God, was the wholly innocent victim of self-interested power.” The claims that he was “a criminal, a blasphemer, a threat to social order” were “all lies.” Those who had crucified him “are the guilty ones.”

How apposite those words are for Hong Kong. We must pray for Hong Kong and trust — as Ivereigh writes — that “God will act, often beyond the point where, humanly speaking, all solutions have failed.”

Hong Kong will have its resurrection — and Hong Kongers will not give up. Those in Hong Kong will do what an ordinary schoolteacher during the Cultural Revolution in China, as described in Ian Johnson’s excellent book Sparks: China’s Underground Historians and their Battle for the Future, did: “He kept his head down but his beliefs unbowed.”

*The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.

Help UCA News to be independent
Dear reader,
Lent is the season during which catechumens make their final preparations to be welcomed into the Church.
Each year during Lent, UCA News presents the stories of people who will join the Church in proclaiming that Jesus Christ is their Lord. The stories of how women and men who will be baptized came to believe in Christ are inspirations for all of us as we prepare to celebrate the Church's chief feast.
Help us with your donations to bring such stories of faith that make a difference in the Church and society.
A small contribution of US$5 will support us continue our mission…
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Also Read

UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
Hong Kong will have its resurrection - UCA News
UCA News
Contribute
Benedict Rogers

Hong Kong will have its resurrection

Hong Kongers will not give up but hope Pope Francis will at least pray for them this Holy Week
Published: March 25, 2024 04:21 AM GMT

Updated: March 25, 2024 06:33 AM GMT

People gather to protest against Hong Kong's new national security law outside the Chinese consulate in Los Angeles on March 23.

People gather to protest against Hong Kong's new national security law outside the Chinese consulate in Los Angeles on March 23. (Photo: AFP)

Hong Kong’s draconian new security law — known colloquially as “Article 23” — took effect on March 23. That day, I joined hundreds of Hong Kongers at a protest in London.

In my speech, I said that it is now up to those of us outside Hong Kong to continue to speak out, as it is far too dangerous for anyone in Hong Kong to do so. Those of us around the world who enjoy basic freedoms must use them on behalf of those whose freedom has been dismantled.

A few hours after the protest, I went to a concert, on the eve of Palm Sunday. The program included Mozart’s Vesperae Solennes de Confessore and Sinfonia Concertante, and it ended with Hayden’s Theresienmesse.

The first words of Vesperae Solennes de Confessore, translated from Latin, are: “The Lord said until my Lord: Sit thou on my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool. The Lord shall send the rod of thy power out of Sion: be thou ruler even in the midst among thine enemies.”

Theresienmesse begins with these words in Latin: “Kyrie eleison. Christe eleison. Kyrie eleison” (“Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.”) It ends with “Dona nobis pacem” (“Give us peace”).

As we journey through Holy Week, remembering the Passion of Christ and preparing to celebrate His resurrection at Easter, let us pray those words for Hong Kong. Lord have mercy.

"The new security law represents the hammering in of the last nails in Hong Kong’s cross"

And let us remember that while the architects of the new security law — coming on top of the National Security Law imposed on the city by Beijing four years ago — argue that these laws have brought an end to the protests and conflicts of 2019, they have in no way created any meaningful “peace.” They have silenced dissent but at the cost of destroying Hong Kong as we once knew it.

In their hearts, most Hong Kongers yearn for the freedoms, autonomy and rule of law they once enjoyed. They may no longer be able to express it, but their anger with their “enemies” in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and Beijing’s quislings in the Hong Kong government burns strongly. They long for the day when their enemies are made their “footstool.”

Let us not forget that history shows dictators do not last forever. This Holy Week, let us remember that the Crucifixion is not the end of the story. After the dark night comes the dawn of the Resurrection.

For now, however, Hong Kong has been plunged further into the darkness of Calvary. Fast-tracked through the legislature in just 11 days, with minimum scrutiny, no meaningful debate and Pyongyang-style unanimous approval, the new security law represents the hammering in of the last nails in Hong Kong’s cross. The noose around Hong Kong has been further tightened.

Hong Kong has lost most of its freedoms over the past four years since the imposition of Beijing’s National Security Law. Over 66 civil society organizations have been forced to shut down, almost all independent media closed, and the pro-democracy camp expelled from the Legislative Council. Politicians, activists, journalists and lawyers have been jailed, books that are critical of the CCP banned and protests outlawed.

Singing “Glory to Hong Kong” — the anthem of the 2019 protests — can land you in jail and wearing black — the color of the protesters — can get you arrested. Even speech therapists who published a book about sheep and wolves deemed by the regime to carry a political message were imprisoned.

In the trial of 76-year-old entrepreneur, devout Catholic, and British citizen Jimmy Lai, founder of the Apple Daily newspaper, his communications — pre-dating the National Security Law — with several foreign nationals, including myself, have been cited as evidence of collusion with foreign forces. Those communications were not only perfectly legal at the time, but completely normal, yet the security law is now being applied retrospectively.

Even more alarmingly, the prosecution is building its case against Lai largely on the testimony of Andy Li, a young activist whose evidence has been ruled inadmissible by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, because it has been coerced through torture. For a city that built its reputation as an international financial center on the rule of law, this is a grim development.

"It was hard to imagine the situation getting even worse. But the new security law ushers in an even darker era"

Among Hong Kong’s hundreds of other political prisoners are most of the 47 former legislators and activists arrested on Jan. 6, 2021. Their only “crime” was holding a primary election to choose their candidates for what should have been the 2020 Legislative Council elections. Those elections were postponed, and a new election law disenfranchised the entire pro-democracy camp by permitting only proven pro-Beijing candidates to stand. With a few exceptions, most of the 47 have been in prison for over three years, awaiting trial and denied bail.

Chow Hang-tung, a prominent barrister and activist who organized the annual vigil to commemorate the Tiananmen Square massacre, has been in jail for almost three years. Last year the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded that her “deprivation of liberty” is indeed “arbitrary”.

The cases of Jimmy Lai, Chow Hang-tung and the 47 illustrate how the rule of law and basic freedoms in Hong Kong have already been dismantled. It was hard to imagine the situation getting even worse. But the new security law ushers in an even darker era.

Under the new law, arrestees could be denied access to a lawyer, and police could detain people without charge for up to seven days. Some 39 new criminal offenses have been created, providing for lengthy jail sentences. Anyone convicted of seditious intent could be jailed for seven years; colluding with a foreign force could result in ten years in prison; and possessing a seditious publication carries a three-year sentence. The vaguely defined crime of “espionage” is punishable by 20 years in prison. “Treason” is punished by life imprisonment.

Perhaps most ominous is the provision that anyone “failing to disclose the commission of treason by others” could face 14 years in jail. Questions have been raised about the threats to the sacred “Seal of Confession” which upholds the confidentiality of the Sacrament of Penance (or Confession) in churches as sacrosanct after the Secretary for Justice Paul Lam said it would be “very difficult to create exceptions” for clergy.

The Catholic diocese in Hong Kong has issued a brief statement claiming that the new law “will not alter the confidential nature of Confession after 16 international religious freedom experts expressed concern, but some priests fear spies could be sent into churches or confessionals could be bugged.

The international community has condemned this repression. Eighty eight international parliamentarians and public figures, including the last British governor of Hong Kong Lord Patten, issued a statement when the law was passed last week, as have the British Foreign Secretary Lord David Cameron, the United States, the European Union and others.

The Vatican, however, has so far stayed silent. This Holy Week, I hope Pope Francis will at least pray for Hong Kong.

I have just finished reading Austin Ivereigh’s moving new book, First Belong to God: On Retreat With Pope Francis. Writing with Easter in mind, Ivereigh notes that “what the Resurrection will bring about is an unveiling of the way evil works.”

After the Resurrection, followers of our Lord will “record, exactly and truthfully, what happened: Jesus, the Son of God, was the wholly innocent victim of self-interested power.” The claims that he was “a criminal, a blasphemer, a threat to social order” were “all lies.” Those who had crucified him “are the guilty ones.”

How apposite those words are for Hong Kong. We must pray for Hong Kong and trust — as Ivereigh writes — that “God will act, often beyond the point where, humanly speaking, all solutions have failed.”

Hong Kong will have its resurrection — and Hong Kongers will not give up. Those in Hong Kong will do what an ordinary schoolteacher during the Cultural Revolution in China, as described in Ian Johnson’s excellent book Sparks: China’s Underground Historians and their Battle for the Future, did: “He kept his head down but his beliefs unbowed.”

*The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.

Help UCA News to be independent
Dear reader,
Lent is the season during which catechumens make their final preparations to be welcomed into the Church.
Each year during Lent, UCA News presents the stories of people who will join the Church in proclaiming that Jesus Christ is their Lord. The stories of how women and men who will be baptized came to believe in Christ are inspirations for all of us as we prepare to celebrate the Church's chief feast.
Help us with your donations to bring such stories of faith that make a difference in the Church and society.
A small contribution of US$5 will support us continue our mission…
William J. Grimm
Publisher
UCA News

Also Read

UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia