Category : Hong Kong

(WSJ) Masks Could Help Stop Coronavirus. So Why Are They Still Controversial?

As countries begin to reopen their economies, face masks, an essential tool for slowing the spread of coronavirus, are struggling to gain acceptance in the West. One culprit: Governments and their scientific advisers.

Researchers and politicians who advocate simple cloth or paper masks as cheap and effective protection against the spread of Covid-19, say the early cacophony in official advice over their use—as well as deeper cultural factors—has hampered masks’ general adoption.

There is widespread scientific and medical consensus that face masks are a key part of the public policy response for tackling the pandemic. While only medical-grade N95 masks can filter tiny viral particles and prevent catching the virus, medical experts say even handmade or cheap surgical masks can block the droplets emitted by speaking, coughing and sneezing, making it harder for an infected wearer to spread the virus.

Although many European countries and U.S. states have made masks mandatory in shops or on public transport, studies show that people are reluctant to wear them unless they have to.

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Posted in Health & Medicine, Hong Kong

(The Immanent Frame) “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord”: Secular Christianities on Hong Kong’s Civic Square

Sing hallelujah to the Lord.
Sing hallelujah to the Lord.
Sing hallelujah, sing hallelujah,
Sing hallelujah to the Lord.
—Linda Stassen-Benjamin (1974)

I was in Chicago on June 12, 2019 when my friend, a Christian theologian from Hong Kong, sent me a Facebook Live video of Civic Square, the site outside the government offices that got its name from a 2012 protest against a bill to revise Hong Kong’s education curriculum to feature nationalistic Chinese themes. Civic Square was also where the 2014 Umbrella Movement began. The crowd that gathered there in June of last year was singing the evangelical chorus “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord.” The word on the street, my friend said, was that Christians were trying to calm the police attired in riot gear. A day of protests was expected against the second reading of a bill to amend the extradition law to allow for any requesting foreign jurisdiction, including the Chinese mainland, to request the return of “fugitive offenders” to face legal repercussions for their crimes. The fear was that it would be used to repress critics of Beijing.

The popular interpretation of what was happening at that moment was that the singers had to be Christian. And, of course, they probably were. They would, after all, be the only ones who would think of singing an evangelical chorus from the Jesus Movement of the 1960s and 1970s that has become globally popular in contemporary evangelicalism; in fact, I have even heard it sung by Roman Catholics at mass. Indeed, the activist pastor Timothy Lam told Reuters reporters at the time that the singing, which lasted eighteen hours into the day, was an attempt to relieve the tensions between the police and the protesters who would try—and succeed—in blocking the Legislative Council chambers that day so that the reading would not be able to happen. Hong Kong Free Press goes as far as to speak of a 72-hour prayer meeting that had been planned around the demonstrations. During a press conference held by Protestant and Catholic clergy planning on confronting the Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor with the police violence that ensued over the day, one pastor reported hearing a police officer shout at a protester, “Ask your Jesus to come down and see us!” Following such reports, the New York Times interviewed Christian participants in the singing and protesting that day who thought Lam should repent of her sin and return to a path of just governance.

I was not in Hong Kong for the protests. But it did not take long for the news media I was reading and the live feeds and online forums I actively followed to show that “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord” began taking on a life of its own. Within a week, Shanghaiist ran a headline declaring the anthem had become the “unofficial anthem of the anti-extradition protest movement,” though the piece’s attempt to figure out who the Christians were rendered unclear the question of whether the Christians it described were making statements or leading the singing. As far as the song itself went, some explained that they joined because religious gatherings are, by legal definition, not a riot. With its catchy lyrics able to call back in popular memory the events of June 12, it became increasingly difficult as the protests dragged on for the entire year and then some to determine whether all singing hallelujah to the Lord in Hong Kong were actually worshippers of that Lord. In time, a perverse, non-Christian Cantonese imprecatory adaptation of the Christian chorus also gained in popularity: Send Lam Cheng Yuet Ngor to the Lord.

Situated at what is arguably the founding moment of these 2019 protests, the popularity of “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord” unveils, I claim, the possibility that the relation between “populism” and the “political” in Hong Kong is that the protests could over time be framed as the work of a praying public, instead of, say, a religious community going public.

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Posted in Hong Kong, Religion & Culture

(ERLC) The church must be a refuge in the midst of fear

COVID-19 is a great opportunity for witness. Our communities are full of scared people. Depression, anxiety, and suicide are all likely to spike in the next few weeks. I can guarantee you of this: COVID-19 comes paired with a mental health epidemic. Bereft of community, the outdoors, work, and school, individuals and families will face an unprecedented assault on their minds. The Church must respond. We must make our services physically safe places, adopting a higher standard of hygiene than wider society, so that we can provide a refuge of mind and spirit to scared people.

Since COVID-19 is especially dangerous to elders, churches can seize the opportunity to deliver food and basic supplies to older people in their communities so that they don’t have to go out. This will save lives, minister to the spirits of these dear brothers and sisters, and be a witness to all of their watching neighbors.

Since COVID-19 will lead to school cancellations, Christian families can organize parent-shares for small groups of kids, and use these as opportunities for discipleship in the home, which has proven to have an immensely fruitful effect.

Since COVID-19 will cause many people to be afraid, Christians can, when appropriate, meet friends for dinner or coffee and talk about fear, and the God who casts out all fear. We can explain that we’re just as afraid as everyone else, that we aren’t really very brave people: but Christ died for us. Whom then shall we fear? COVID-19? Hardly.

Since shortages of basic commodities are a guarantee, Christians can set an example of community support. Our churches can pool masks, soap, and other supplies from members, distributing as needed. Our church supplies a week of masks to everyone who shows up on Sunday morning, while many of our church families, including my own family, have more-or-less resolved to share our supplies until there is nothing left. When they have two dollops of hand soap left, Christians give the first one away.

This is the witness of our ancestors in the faith since time immemorial; this is the path they have walked; this is how we love our neighbors. We love our neighbor as ourselves, even laying down our lives for them.

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Posted in Health & Medicine, Hong Kong, Parish Ministry

(LSE) Ann Gillian Chu–Hong Kong: City of Protests, City of God?

The major difference between the pre- and post-Handover protests is this: prior to 1997, the people of Hong Kong had a sense that there was still potential for self-determination and idealisation once the Handover arrived. However, after the Handover, many became disillusioned with the process of Hong Kong’s Chinese assimilation due to the reversal of power between Hong Kong and mainland China. Accordingly, protests became a desperate cry rather than a look forward toward a hopeful future. Despite the differences in response pre- and post-Handover, there has always been a part of the Christian community that consider social justice to be a core concern of Christians, while there are those who consider social issues to be earthly concerns and urged the church to focus on evangelism alone.

Where do Hong Kong Christians go from here? There are those who aim to leave the Earthly City and look inward to the church community—withdrawn pietists—and there are those who think being Christian means having to engage with social justice and who are trying to fix the existing political system. But why should you care? The situation in Hong Kong presents important considerations on the nature of religious freedom for the rest of the world. Hong Kong has taken an unusual trajectory, having moved from a more free society to a more autocratic one. However, the shift toward autocratic political orders is becoming more and more common in the twenty-first century. Hong Kong’s political situation will provide a much-needed analysis of how Christians in a non-democratic, non-Christian society frame civic engagement. Watch Hong Kong and its prophetic existence.

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Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Hong Kong, Politics in General

(NI) Gordon Chang–Pro-China Forces ‘Annihilated’ in Hong Kong Election

Initial results from Sunday’s election in Hong Kong indicate that pro-democracy forces have handed Chinese ruler Xi Jinping a stunning setback. Pro-Beijing candidates are going down to defeat in District Council elections, the first real test of sentiment in the territory since protests began in April over the introduction of a bill authorizing extraditions to mainland China.

So far, pro-Dems have won 88.6 percent of the vote for 452 seats on 18 District Council boards. They have so far taken 351 seats versus 45 for the “establishment” forces. “Absolute political annihilation for the pro-Beijing camp” is how Stephen McDonell, a BBC China correspondent, described the result on Twitter. Tom Mitchell of the Financial Times called it a “Himalayan-sized avalanche.”

Turnout was a record 71.2 percent, well ahead of the previous high mark of 47.1 percent set in 2015, the year after the 79-day “Occupy” protests. A record 4.13 million people, in a region of 7.40 million, were registered to vote this year.

The District Councils, responsible for routine municipal services, have little power, but the Sunday elections took on significance, widely seen as a referendum on various matters because they are the only government bodies in Hong Kong whose members are elected by universal suffrage. “Sunday’s vote,” CNN noted on the eve of the election, “offers the first objective test of how people in the city feel about the protests and the government.”

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Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Hong Kong, Law & Legal Issues, Police/Fire, Politics in General

(Church Times) Hong Kong’s bishops renew call for calm after violent clashes at city’s university

The Anglican bishops in Hong Kong have renewed their appeal for calm after a siege and clashes between protesters and police in one of the city’s universities.

Violence escalated this week, as the protests — which have now lasted five months — continued (News, 14 June). Initially sparked by a Bill to allow the extradition of sus­pected criminals in Hong Kong to mainland China, the protests have widened to include police brutality and the way in which Hong Kong is administered by Beijing.

A small hard core of anti-government protesters were thought to be trapped still in the Hong Kong Polytechnic University on Wednes­day: supplies of food and water are running low. Protesters have been there since last week and were lighting fires and throwing petrol bombs at the circling police. Some escaped by abseiling down from the building on to waiting motorbikes; many other have surrendered and been arrested.

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Posted in - Anglican: Latest News, Asia, Hong Kong