Church has stayed neutral, said a missionary priest, but continues to support the right to demonstrate
Cardinal John Tong, the bishop of Hong Kong, has called for peace as tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters extended a blockade of Hong Kong streets on Tuesday amid protests for the city’s leader to step down.
The mostly student protesters have called for the resignation of Leung Chun-ying after last month’s ruling from Beijing to vet candidates wishing to run for Hong Kong's leadership in 2017.
While Leung has said Beijing would not back down in the face of protests it has branded illegal, he also said Hong Kong police would be able to maintain security without help from People's Liberation Army (PLA) troops from the mainland.
Over the weekend, riot police shot pepper spray and tear gas at protesters but withdrew on Monday.
Cardinal Tong made an appeal for peace in response to the escalating unrest. In a statement, the cardinal called upon the government to “put the personal safety of fellow citizens as her prime concern, exercising restraint in deployment of force with a view to listening to the voice of the younger generation and of citizens from all walks of life.”
He also expressed his desire “that all those who are trying to voice out their grievances will be persistent in keeping calm. Where there is a will, there is a way.”
“As Christians, we believe that with God as its Creator, our world can always offer us hope,” the statement continued. “Accordingly, I would like to ask all Christians to continue praying for the reconciliation of the conflicting parties in Hong Kong, and for the peace and wellbeing of our Community.”
Tuesday’s protests come one day ahead of the national holiday, Chinese National Day.
“The atmosphere is electric,” said Father Jim Mulroney, editor of the Hong Kong-based weekly publication, the Sunday Examiner. “There is a great determination among the people,” the Columban missionary priest said in an interview with Vatican Radio, noting that some estimates are that as many as 200,000 have taken to the streets.
A number of local Churches have been hosting prayer vigils, with Mass being celebrated Monday night at the cathedral. Churches have remained open for the evening, Father Mulroney said, becoming “respite centres,” offering protestors places to eat, sleep, and pray.
“The Church has remained fairly politically neutral,” he said, “but it has supported the right of the people to demonstrate, and continues to support the right of the people to demonstrate.”