Democracy Is Important for the Future of Hong Kong

ELCHK Bishop Ben Chun-wa Chang. Photo: LWF/W. Chang
ELCHK Bishop Ben Chun-wa Chang. Photo: LWF/W. Chang

Lutheran Bishop Decries Wide Gap between Authorities and Youth

(LWI) – As pro-democracy activists occupy key parts of Hong Kong city for a third week in efforts to implement reforms in the territory, Lutheran Bishop Ben Chun-wa Chang says “democracy is very important at this moment” in the region, and it would lead to a healthier society.

China, which controls Hong Kong, argues that its ruling party will vet candidates for the 2017 election of the territory’s chief executive. Opposing the directive, demonstrators led by students have been staging protests, taking to the streets in thousands and outside government headquarters, in what is also referred to as the “Umbrella Movement.” Clashes have erupted in recent days as police began removing barricades and using pepper spray on protestors.

Chang, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hong Kong (ELCHK), said his church understands the protestors’ discontent with the lack of universal suffrage in the 2017 elections. However, he noted, the ELCHK also understands the government’s attitude.

“But, if the Chief Executive Election is in control of some people, then the society will go downward and backward, in a sense, too,” Chang said. There is a wide gap between the Chinese and Hong Kong authorities and the people of Hong Kong, particularly the young people. The narrowing of this gap is critical for the future of Hong Kong, the bishop emphasized.

While student protesters led by the Hong Kong Federation of Students and Occupy Central, have made up the bulk of the pro-democracy demonstrations over the past weeks, Chang said the protestors also include a larger group of middle-aged people.

In 1997 the United Kingdom handed back Hong Kong to China under a 1984 agreement that was to give the territory a high degree of autonomy for the next 50 years. However, in 2004 China said it must approve any changes to Hong Kong’s election laws.

In June and July this year, pro-democracy activists held an unofficial referendum on political reform with both sides holding large rallies.

For the ELCHK bishop, the current protests do not amount to an anti-government movement that would spread to other parts of China as some commentators have wondered. “It’s just a local democracy movement,” he said.