Bishop Ha fights to hold back tears while speaking in wake of violent clashes over extradition law.
A bishop of the Roman Catholic Church in Hong Kong spoke out in solidarity with the mostly young people protesting a proposed extradition law in the formerly British, now Chinese, territory.
“All we want is to live in freedom, to have guarantees for our lives, to have the freedom to which everyone is entitled and no longer live in fear,” said Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing, in a homily that turned emotional at times.
The 60-year-old bishop, a member of the Franciscan Order, fought back tears as he spoke at the end of a day of protest that turned violent and left two people in serious condition in hospital and at least 79 injured. Protests started in early June over a proposed law that would allow fugitives to be extradited to mainland China or Taiwan.
On Wednesday, about 5,000 riot police fired tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets at thousands of protesters as they cleared streets around the city’s Legislative Council, according to UCANews. Bishop Ha met with a group of young Catholics before a special Mass at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church.
As translated by AsiaNews, the bishop’s homily at that Mass focused on the idealism of young people, who want only what is good for society.
“They are rational, peaceful and moderate,” he said of protesters. “Perhaps we could say that they are naive, thinking that by bringing together so many people they can change something, put off the approval of the extradition law. … A young person should not face all this [violence]. I never thought that this could happen in Hong Kong.”
Ha was born and reared in Hong Kong.
“When I heard these young people sharing their stories, I saw and felt how humanity is beautiful and good,” he continued. “Despite so many injustices, humanity continues to shine. Young people help and support each other.”
The Diocese of Hong Kong released three statements to call for the government and the public to exercise restraint and seek a solution to the dilemma through peaceful, rational channels, UCANews reported. It asked the faithful to pray for the city. Bishop Ha said he would discuss the situation with Cardinal John Tong, the apostolic administrator of Hong Kong.
The current protests began soon after the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. The June 4 commemoration brought some 180,000 people to the streets of Hong Kong. Bishop Ha spoke that night to more than 1,000 Catholics at a prayer service and reflected on the importance of why such terrible events should be commemorated.
“I found that the Beijing students 30 years ago showed us the beauty of humanity in their lives. The believed there is light in the darkness, hope in the hopeless. They believed non-violence will overcome violence,” Bishop Ha said.