Hong Kong fears for religious freedom

Over the past year, Hong Kong has undergone tremendous political changes. The police crackdowns have been repeated one after another. How should the church manage in these times? How should believers deal with this?

When I was growing up, I thought that my generation lived in the best times, because we had electronics, computers, microwaves, televisions, fiber optics and space: things that did not exist for the generation before us.

Now, in Hong Kong, we are entering a generation of “unknown”. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow in regard to our relationship with China. How will increased Chinese control of Hong Kong impact the church in Hong Kong? The religious system in mainland China is very different from Hong Kong. The impact of the new National Security Law is unknown, with some people thinking it will make Hong Kong and its churches safer, while others are very uneasy. Some worry that this is the end of Hong Kong.

Whatever happens, the church in Hong Kong is facing unstable conditions and civil unrest, with economic downturns, layoffs, corporate failures, etc. – and that is not even including the impact of the pandemic.

Facing the unknowable uncertainty in front of us, we can learn from the Chinese church during the Cultural Revolution in China. The number of Christians in the Chinese church was about 90 000 in 1900, rose to one million in 1949, and then during the very hard years of the Cultural Revolution rose to 10 million by 1996, and 17 million in 2006. Although religion was severely restricted in China through the entire century, Christianity still has vitality and influence in China, in many small unregistered churches. Unofficial figures estimate that there are more than 40 million Christians in China today.

There is hope for Hong Kong churches, even though we may live in the future with much more uncertainty and restrictions on our churches, losing our comfortable freedoms. The church can thrive and grow in spite of many restrictions, as we have seen in China.

—Jeremiah Choi, Hong Kong Mennonite Church

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