Baptist leader quits Hong Kong for the UK over religious freedom fears

(Photo: Unsplash/Pop&Zebra)

The president of the Hong Kong Baptist Convention has moved to the UK with his wife because of the increasing clampdown on freedoms in the former British colony.

Rev Lo Hing-choi departed from the city on April 20, just 10 days before his term as president of the 80,000-strong convention was due to end. 

He said he and his wife had prayerfully reached the decision to leave after seeing a succession of people "pursued" by the authorities and imprisoned following the introduction of the National Security Law

The controversial law is aimed at crushing dissent after hundreds of thousands took to the streets in pro-democracy protests. Since its introduction last summer, pro-democracy activists have been arrested and imprisoned.

In an open letter published in the Chinese language news website Christian Times, Rev Lo, 70, said, "Why choose to immigrate at this time? The biggest – or the only – reason behind it, is the changes in Hong Kong and its shrinking freedom.

"The government policies have deviated from the principles and basis of reasonableness and fairness. What is happening is not just Hong Kong being 'torn apart,' but a severe 'dislocation.'"

Earlier this month, over 100 MPs and peers urged British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to impose sanctions on Hong Kong because of the crackdown on pro-democracy campaigners after dozens were rounded up in January.

Christian pro-democracy leader Joshua Wong was imprisoned last December for 13 and a half months over his involvement in protests. He said soon after his incarceration that he was leaning on Romans 5:3-4.

Earlier this month, pro-democracy campaigner and former legislator Nathan Law was granted asylum in the UK.

Christians in the UK have been preparing to welcome Hong Kongers leaving the territory after the British Government offered a path to citizenship through the British National Overseas (BNO) passport. 

The website provides information about how to settle into life in the UK, and includes a list of churches that have signed up to give a warm welcome. 

Dr Krish Kandiah, founder and director of UKHK, said: "Moving continents is difficult at the best of times but it is particularly challenging during a global pandemic.

"That's why we want to welcome the new arrivals here today in the centre of London, conjuring the spirit of the 2012 Olympics, and show off the best of Great Britain.

"In normal times, we would also have liked to put on special events, like concerts, dances, poetry recitals, film screenings, park football matches, picnics, and supper clubs.

"As it is, we will have to make do with Zoom calls and virtual bonding for now."