Macau, Taiwan watch and wait as Hong Kong unrest grows

Catholics have mixed feelings about whether protesters are right to take to the streets
Macau, Taiwan watch and wait as Hong Kong unrest grows

Hong Kong protesters brave the rain in a pro-democracy rally. The yellow banner opposes a proposed extradition law change that would allow the government to send fugitives to China and Taiwan to face trial. (ucanews.com photo)

Neighboring Macau and Taiwan are closely observing the unrest in Hong Kong that was sparked three months ago by an extradition law amendment.

While solidarity actions have been held in both places, some people are disgusted by the Hong Kong protests.

A planned assembly in Macau on Aug. 19 to support the Hong Kong movement was banned by authorities, who said such an event would be supporting an "illegal action" in Hong Kong.

Macau Diocese is also concerned about the Hong Kong situation. A Mass for the stability and peace of Hong Kong society was presided by Bishop Stephen Lee Bun-sang on July 26 "to express the concern among brothers and sisters in the Lord."

A Macau Catholic who gave his name as Mr. Wong observed that since the Anti-Retirement Package Bill Movement in May 2014, authorities have been trying to restrict freedom of assembly, such as by amending the Right of Assembly and Demonstration Act by changing the body to be notified of a planned event from the Municipal Affairs Bureau to the Public Security Police Force.

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He said the change had allowed police to abuse the law by blocking the Aug. 19 assembly. The Municipal Affairs Bureau also "suddenly" put up hoardings at the venue after news of the event came out.

However, Mr. Wong suggests that the attitudes of people in civil society are more noteworthy. "Macau citizens are generally disgusted with the recent protests in Hong Kong. They especially think that the assembly [in Macau] aimed to bring Hong Kong's chaos to Macau and to poison young people in Macau," he said.

He said that when news about the assembly came out, many people went online to express their refusal to participate. But an online group opened by Macau citizens to support Hong Kong people and defend freedom of assembly in Macau has been liked by over 10,000 people so far.

Although the controversial extradition bill that sparked the Hong Kong protests has been suspended, the territory’s government is now facing a broader movement demanding democratic reform and an investigation into alleged police brutality.

People in Taiwan have reacted differently to the Hong Kong unrest. In Taipei, the underpass near National Taiwan University is full of post-it notes with encouraging words and expressions of solidarity.

Jia Lin, a Taiwanese Catholic, said Hong Kong’s movement is a very sad thing for her —"probably like David facing Goliath but not knowing if God blesses him or not."

The “one country, two systems” implemented in Hong Kong by mainland China has been regarded as a model for Taiwan. But the current situation in Hong Kong has stopped Taiwanese from having any illusions about the model and could even help President Tsai Ing-wen to win re-election next January.

Jia Lin told ucanews.com that in the face of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), a regime that never respects the basic rights of people, her voting decision at next year’s presidential election would not be affected. 

Protesters attend a rally at Chater Garden in Hong Kong on Aug. 23. The financial hub has been rocked by three months of unrest, with students making up a large number of the pro-democracy protesters taking to the streets almost daily. (Photo by Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP)

 

Beijing’s totalitarian rule

Another church member, Michael, believes that the Hong Kong protests happened because Beijing’s totalitarian rule had made local and overseas Chinese distrust them, with many believing that the CCP manipulates the judiciary.

He told ucanews.com that the Hong Kong movement had not influenced his ideas "because I knew that the one country, two systems mentioned by the CCP is a political pitch, a fraud."

He said a president who can truly defend Taiwan's democracy should be elected next year because "democracy is very valuable."

Michael suggested that after Vatican II the Church in Hong Kong put the Church's social teachings into practice and cultivated members to look at political and social issues from the faith perspective, motivating many Catholics to join the protests. This was quite amazing for him as a Catholic in Taiwan, where it had never happened.

But he said many Taiwanese Catholics are unfamiliar with political issues and the Church’s actions against the extradition bill in Hong Kong. He recalled a “discouraging” Sunday Mass where the prayer of the faithful “without any context denounced Hong Kong people for resorting to street violence and hoped for Hong Kong society’s quick return to calm."

Jia Lin also suggests: "Perhaps Catholics in Taiwan should think seriously if there is any value more worth treasuring and respecting above the authority of the secular government."

However, in Taiwan there are still people against the Hong Kong movement.

Maria from Kaohsiung Diocese believes the demonstrators are only politicians’ pawns. She cited the Sunflower Student Movement in Taiwan in 2014 as "clearly an election stunt" and considers the Hong Kong movement to be the same. Moreover, she claimed that the situations of Hong Kong and Taiwan are the same.

She is unsure whether to vote in the coming presidential election, believing that Tsai Ing-wen will be re-elected.

Another church member, Paul, suggests that social or policy problems are making young people in Hong Kong feel hopeless about future development, so they are using the extradition row as an excuse to vent.

He told ucanews.com that allowing the movement to go to the extreme would prevent it from achieving any political purpose. "The ‘do not split’ principle is just to let extremists kidnap all those involved in the movement, and in a mass movement there is always no lack of extremists and people attracted by extremism."

Paul said the movement has not affected his vote next year as he waits for candidates to state their intentions. He emphasized the candidate’s ability to maintain a good relationship with the mainland as his focus.

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