Artwork by Airam Dato-On. Original Photo (c): yulokchan
We write as Hong Kongers from the diaspora and those from other Asian backgrounds, united as people of faith, to express our concern and solidarity for the protests now taking place in Hong Kong.
On June 9th, 2019, we witnessed over 1 million peaceful protestors openly express their opposition towards the extradition bill proposed by the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR). After the most recent wave of protest, in which close to 2 million (and 1)* Hong Kongers marched on June 16th to demand for Carrie Lam to step down as Chief Executive; for the promise that protesters will be exempt from prosecution; for Carrie Lam and the Hong Kong police to retract the mischaracterization of the protests as a “riot”; and ultimately, for the full withdrawal of the extradition bill, Hong Kongers have been handed a patronizing and misdirected apology and none of these demands have been met. This is an egregious insult to the people of Hong Kong all over the world. While the bill has now been suspended, its very presence poses an unprecedented threat to the constitutional principles upon which Hong Kong has been founded.
We affirm the “One Country, Two Systems” constitutional principle that was implemented to secure a “high degree of autonomy” for Hong Kong over a period of 50 years after the handover in 1997. The principle was intended to safeguard Hong Kong’s judiciary, administrative, and economic systems. Over recent years, however, we have also witnessed the various attempts that have been made to undermine this autonomy – exhibited in the installation of only pro-Beijing candidates for the small committee election of Hong Kong’s Chief Executive position, the disqualification of pro-democracy legislative council members, the banning of a pro-independence political party, and the jailing of Umbrella Movement leaders, to name but a few. These developments reveal the deep extent to which Hong Kong’s autonomy has already been compromised. As a result, fear, distrust, and a sense of despair have been stoked amongst the people of Hong Kong, particularly amongst the youth.
We understand, as do the people of Hong Kong, that the proposed extradition amendment further compromises Hong Kong’s autonomy. It would enable the Chief Executive to circumvent the legislative council and extradite any individuals deemed to have exhibited anti-Beijing sentiments, or anyone regarded as unlawful under Mainland Chinese law. This would mean the end of free speech in Hong Kong. This would also mean that Mainland China will further extend its control of Hong Kong, violating the terms of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration.
Beyond the grave implications of the extradition bill, we are further grieved by the excessive use of force exerted by the police over the course of the past week. What started as a peaceful march on June 9th became a battle scene as anti-riot police clashed with protestors as young as fifteen years old. On June 12th, the police fired rounds of rubber bullets, bean bag shots, and upwards of 150 canisters of tear gas into crowds of peaceful demonstrators as they exercised their right to express discontent towards the HKSAR Government and to defend their home.
Despite fear, distrust, despair, and now the eruption of state-sanctioned violence, Hong Kongers have above all shown their determination and resilience. We have witnessed how Hong Kongers have come together from all walks of life: Tina Luk, the mother begging police officers to stop throwing canisters, with her arms out to show that she wasn’t dangerous; the students transmitting details of how to best organize themselves via an encrypted messaging system; the local restaurants handing out free food; the foreign journalists confronting police officers; the Legislative Council Member, Charles Mok facing off with police to condemn their actions; and the faith community singing hymns through the night. Hong Kong has come together, united and strong, casting age, income, class, and ethnicity aside to preserve Hong Kong’s autonomy.
We, the Hong Kongers and friends of Hong Kong who are far from its shores, would like to express our deep appreciation and solidarity for you who are at home defending its freedoms now. We see you, and we are indebted to you for the sacrifices that you have made by putting yourselves in the front lines. We regard the privilege that we hold as a diasporic community as a responsibility to be Hong Kongers wherever we go. Hong Kongers are determined, resilient, and our memories are long. We have no intention of letting anyone forget about Hong Kong’s unique identity, and we commit to advocating for the needs of the people of Hong Kong. We condemn the violence that the Hong Kong police have inflicted on protestors, we ask for the guarantee that protestors will be exempt from any prosecution, we reject Carrie Lam and the police’s misnaming of the protests as “riots”, and we stand with the people of Hong Kong to call for a full withdrawal of the proposed extradition bill.
True democracy is a sacred thing. It is found when people come together and affirm that our lives and destinies are bound up together. As a body divinely united, we hurt with you and refuse to be silent in the face of this evil and injustice. We believe in a God who loves justice and acts on behalf of those stripped of power. We believe that faith can move mountains and change the hearts of our rulers. We cry “加油” (add oil), as we believe in a God who stokes the fires of freedom.
And so we join with you in holy protest, Hong Kong. We join in solidarity as siblings of Hong Kong from afar. Our battle cry is with yours. Our protest is with yours. Our fight for freedom and autonomy is with yours.
我們再次呼喊：香港加油 (Hong Kong, add oil!)
From the Progressive Asian American Christians diasporic community and friends of Hong Kong
*Remembering the loss of Mr. Leung, who had died on June 15th, 2019 after unfurling a banner in protest against the extradition bill. His memory and spirit was borne by those marching on the 16th. 「200萬01」之01人是紀念2019年6月15日墮樓死亡的抗爭者梁先生。