Hong Kong: Baptist ministers, Cardinals and Christian students at the forefront of protests for free democracy

Tens of thousands of people are rallying for free elections in Hong KongTwitter

Baptist ministers, Catholic cardinals and Christian students are at the forefront of protests for free democracy in Hong Kong.

Among the founders of the 'Occupy Central with Love and Peace' movement is Baptist minister Rev Chu Yiu-ming, who has fought for true democracy in Hong Kong for more than 30 years.

Ahead of the demonstrations, Chu told the South China Morning Post that he is prepared to "pay the price" for a free and fair electoral process.

"I am already 70 years old...I come out just in the hope of clearing some obstacles and paving a smoother road for our next generation, so that they can have an easier life," he said.

Tens of thousands of people have flooded the streets of Hong Kong in protest against the Chinese government's insistence on screening political candidates to ensure their allegiance to the CCP.

It was hoped that open elections would be held in 2017, but a motion ruling against this was passed in August.

Many locals believe contradicts Beijing's promise to one day allow Hong Kong "universal suffrage".

A mass, peaceful campaign already organised by Occupy Central was brought forward after university students began a class boycott and demonstrations were held outside Hong Kong's main government compound in Tamar Park on September 22.

These demonstrations have continued, attracting the support of tens of thousands, and police yesterday began using tear gas, pepper spray and riot gear in an attempt to dispel the protestors.

A large delegation of high school students have now also joined the demonstrations.17-year-old Joshua Wong, a Christian, is the leader of the student activist Scholarism movement, which has in the past successfully campaigned against a CCP-guided curriculum entitled "National and Moral Education".

Wong reportedly mobilised around 1,200 students to join the protests on Friday, and was himself arrested over the weekend along with two leaders from the Federation of Students.

Though dubbed an "extremist" by state-run media, Wong was released without charge on Sunday.

"You have to see every battle as possibly the final battle — only then will you have the determination to fight [for democracy]," he told CNN last week.

According to the South China Morning Post, opinions are split between Hong Kong's major Christian churches, however.

During an address to protestors last Wednesday, Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, the former Catholic Bishop of Hong Kong who has been described as a key figure within the Occupy Central movement, said every Catholic in Hong Kong "has the right and duty to get involved" in politics.

"Though it may be in different degrees of participation," he added.

Protestant theologian Rose Wu also told demonstrators that "the crucifixion of Jesus is political in meaning," and encouraged them to speak up for democracy and political freedom.

However, Anglican Archbishop Paul Kwong appeared to implore Christians to keep out of political debates during a sermon in July.

He questioned why people "speak up so much" when Jesus himself was silent on the cross.

The Archbishop was later forced to clarify that Jesus' silence in itself was a "peaceful, tolerating, accepting voice of love," though he also insisted that those wishing to protest should do so legally.

Professor of politics at City University in Hong Kong, Joseph Cheng Yu-shek, told UCA News that the proportion of Christians supporting the pro-democracy movement is high as they want freedom from the religious restrictions imposed by the Chinese central government.

"Those who have Christian beliefs have a stronger distrust of the Communist Party of China because they are certainly an atheist party, of course. And I would say that Christians, by definition, certainly they accord a higher priority to spiritual things than material things," Cheng said.

"Christians in Hong Kong, they see that economic development has not brought more religious tolerance in China, so despite economic development, despite improvement in living standards and opening to the external world, tolerance of Christianity especially has not been improving, in fact in the recent two years persecution has strengthened," he added.

Social media users have begun sharing a picture of a yellow ribbon to encourage prayer for those involved in the protests.