Eric Metaxas and Dr Foley Beach, the Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America, are among the Christian leaders to have added their name to a statement of solidarity praising the “courageous stand” shown by the people of Hong Kong in defence of freedom and democracy.
“For months now, we, your supporters from all walks of life, have watched your courageous stand for freedom and justice on the streets of Hong Kong,” reads the statement, organised by the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD).
“You have been in our thoughts and prayers as you seek to keep the People’s Republic of China’s Communist leaders from violating Hong Kong’s fragile semi-independence with measures designed to bring the people of Hong Kong under their control.”
The statement of solidarity was issued on Thursday, following lavish celebrations across China to mark 70 years of communist rule.
In Hong Kong, where protests have been held for months in opposition to a scrapped extradition bill, thousands marched through the city in an embarrassing show of defiance towards Beijing.
In the IRD statement, the US Christian leaders went on to express concern over the implications of the extradition bill, which would make it possible for Hong Kong citizens to be sent to mainland China for trial. It was eventually withdrawn by Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam but not soon enough to quell the protests.
“We have been particularly concerned, along with you, about the PRC’s desire to extradite Hong Kong citizens, as well as foreigners, to mainland China, knowing that this technique would certainly be used by the Communist regime against Christians and other religious believers,” the letter said.
“Your dignity and nobility as you suffer for a just cause is a witness to the whole world, and is in stark contrast to those in the West who take their freedom for granted,” they continued.
The Christian leaders end by promising their prayers, support and advocacy.
“We pray and raise our voices in advocacy for Chinese Christians and for all of those in China, including pro-democracy dissidents, Falun Gong, Uyghurs, and the people of Tibet that are oppressed, persecuted, and imprisoned by the Communist regime,” they said.
“And we pledge to do the same for our friends and fellow freedom lovers in Hong Kong. We ask God to protect your fragile freedom and not allow this small bastion of religious liberty for Christians to be compromised and oppressed.
“We also urge the United States government to stand more strongly and more vocally with the people of Hong Kong until your full freedoms are safe and democracy is guaranteed.”
Tensions in Hong Kong have only escalated after police fired the first live round on the 70th anniversary of the PRC, injuring a teenager, and opened fire on a group of journalists, leaving one of them who was working for an Indonesian newspaper permanently blind in one eye.
International Christian Assembly Hong Kong said in a Facebook post that the journalist was one of its members and asked for prayers.
“Last night we were made aware that one of our church members, who is a reporter with a local Indonesian paper, got hurt while covering the protest. As a church family, we are standing fully behind her in support and in prayer,” it said.
“Please join us as we declare God’s healing, comfort and peace as she undergoes recovery.”
Hong Kong Watch, a campaign group founded by Benedict Rogers, East Asia Team Leader for Christian Solidarity Worldwide, condemned the “appalling escalation of brutality” in Hong Kong.
In a statement, Hong Kong Watch said that the events of the last few days demanded a “robust response” from the British government and the wider international community.
“Hong Kong Watch calls on the United Kingdom government to consider measures which can be taken to defend the rights and freedoms of people in Hong Kong,” the statement said.
“The integrity of the Sino-British Joint Declaration is gravely threatened, and the government should consider every available means to stand with people in Hong Kong.
“This should include extending the rights of BNO passport holders; extending Magnitsky sanctions to officials who have committed abuses of human rights; and establishing a ‘contact group’ at the United Nations of like-minded countries to act collectively to defend the rights and freedoms of Hong Kongers.”
Dr Bob Fu, China Aid president, warned that even foreigners passing through Hong Kong would be affected if Hong Kong allowed suspected criminals to be extradited to China.
“The extradition law aims to extradite anyone, including foreigners, who live in or travel through Hong Kong to be arrested and tried in mainland China if they are deemed as ‘criminal suspects’ by China,” he said.
Explaining the motive behind the statement of solidarity, IRD Religious Liberty Program Director Faith McDonnell said that US churches had been too quiet on the situation in Hong Kong.
“We are concerned that churches and Christian organizations in the United States have not made a united appeal on behalf of the people of Hong Kong as China attempts to run roughshod over their democracy and, especially, their religious freedom. We believe that a statement of solidarity is needed, and that now is the time,” she said.
The letter was signed by over 50 Christian leaders, including Fengsuo Zhou, a Christian convert and one of the leaders of the student movement in Tianenmen Square in 1989.
McDonnell added: “Mr Zhou, then a physics major at university, now the co-founder of Humanitarian China, understands more than most of us, the struggle of the Hong Kong protesters for their freedom. And by the grace of God, Mr Zhou found perfect freedom in knowing Jesus, as well.”
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