Hong Kong Christians praying for peace amid angry protests over extradition legislation

(Photo: Ruslan Bardash)

Christians in Hong Kong are praying for the city's future in the face of a wave of protests over new legislation that would allow suspected criminals to be extradited to mainland China. 

Over a million people came out onto the streets to protest the proposed law on Sunday, with the rally later turning violent as police used batons and pepper spray against protesters, leading to some on both sides needing hospital treatment. 

There are plans for further protests outside the Hong Kong legislature on Wednesday, when the bill is due to have its second reading, and calls have gone out for a general strike.  

The protests are the largest in Hong Kong since the handover from British rule in 1997.  Critics say that the bill will jeopardise Hong Kong's independence and the civil liberties of its people, and undo 'one country, two systems' in the semi-autonomous territory.  

Amendments to the Fugitive Offenders bill will apply to the mainland as well as Macau and Taiwan, territories with which Hong Kong currently has no formal extradition treaty in place.

In a pastoral letter, Anglican Archbishop Paul Kwong said that the bill had caused "deep-seated uneasiness" throughout the city. 

"I appeal to all parties concerned – those who are against and those who are pro the amendment – to immediately calm down and to return to reasons in discussing how to resolve the dispute so as to avoid causing further chaos to the society," he said.

"It is my hope that people from all sectors, especially young people, to express their demands through legal and legitimate channels and means, and not to resort to illegal means. Illegal means will harm not only those who resort to it, but also those who love them and their beloved, and the society as a whole.

"I called on all Christians to pray for the stability and prosperity of Hong Kong and for a perfect resolution to the dispute." 

The Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong has urged the SAR Government of Hong Kong not to pass the bill "hurriedly" before adequately addressing the concerns of the general public. 

It is asking all Christians to pray for Hong Kong "in the face of the extremely turbulent situation".

"We request both the SAR Government and the general public, first and foremost for the wellbeing of Hong Kong society, to exercise due restraint and to seek through peaceful channels a solution to the current impasse which conforms with justice and legal principles," it said in a statement. 

The Council for World Mission East Asia team said it was praying for the city amid the unrest.

"Dear sisters and brothers, please be assured of our prayers and solidarity for the people of Hong Kong during this difficult time," it said.

"May the words of Prophet Amos strengthen our hearts, 'Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream.'" (Amos 5:24)

The Hong Kong Christian Council has urged the legislature to listen to the concerns of the people and called for "empathetic dialogue" to find a way forward.  

"We pray for government officials," it said.

"Let the government officials listen to the voices of all walks of life in a humble manner ... so that the public's worries are not neglected and the formulation of policies is more comprehensive."