Time magazine saw it coming. Before millions of protesters took to Hong Kong’s streets, Time noted the coming storm – and the threat to Christians.
In 2018 it reported on “Guerrillas for God: How Hong Kong’s Pastors are Delivering the Message to China’s Christians.”
Hong Kong is a launching pad for evangelizing and equipping the growing underground church in China.
But China is seeking to extend its tyranny into Hong Kong.
The Communist Party of China “wants to control the Christians,” a Hong Kong pastor told Time.
The months-long protests in Hong Kong reveal the high anxiety over what is at stake.
One protester told BBC, “We are very worried that once the law passes, Christians here will be affected and our freedom of religion will be suppressed.”
The song “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord” became an anthem for the protests. Christians wear t-shirts declaring “God bless Hong Kong.”
Protect The Children, a largely Christian group, safeguards young protesters from police abuse and mediates with police. Churches provide shelter, food, first aid, and peace to protesters and police.
Although part of China, Hong Kong has its own currency, economic system, and legal system. In 1997, when the United Kingdom handed over Hong Kong, China agreed to leave the Hong Kong way of life unchanged for fifty years.
The proposed bill, since pulled, that sparked the recent protests would allow China to extradite anyone from Hong Kong to stand trial in China, even for merely voicing dissent.
Hong Kong’s Bill of Rights recognizes the right to religious freedom.
In mainland China, however, religious leaders must “conduct religious activities in the Chinese context”.
Last year China released a five-year plan to Sinicize Christianity. It states, “the following principles must be observed: Embrace and support the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party. Be guided by the core values of socialism and endorse the system, ways, theories and culture of our country’s development.”
China banned the sale of Bibles online last year and is working to ensure people only use state-approved “translations” of religious texts. Children are banned from attending church or religious activities. Faithful pastors are jailed.
Chinese flags and images of Chinese president Xi Jinping are hung in churches in place of crosses. The Ten Commandments are replaced by quotes from Xi Jinping. Cameras inside churches monitor people and preaching. Some mega-churches are demolished.
For years, Hong Kong Christians have equipped Christians in China, from smuggling Bibles to training pastors.
“They need our help because we are in the freer world and they are not,” Hong Kong’s retired Catholic Cardinal Joseph Zen told Time.
A survey found more than 60% of Hong Kong’s churches serve Christians in China in some way, sustaining China’s growing underground Christian population.
“Christians in Hong Kong enthusiastically spread the good news of Jesus Christ into China. China plans to extend its reign into Hong Kong and crush Christians,” said Wendy Wright, Christian Freedom International’s president.
“I can only expect it to get worse,” said a Hong Kong pastor who protects protesters from violence. “But no matter how bad it gets, as long as we can speak out we should speak.”
“Many church leaders believe that if you have not yet been to prison you are not committed enough in your faith,” another pastor said.
Hong Kong Christians to be free to serve
Hong Kong’s freedom