Almost Democratic

Christian Activism and the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong

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The Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong (2014) read like a living tale of David and Goliath. Peaceful demonstrators held flimsy umbrellas to defend themselves against tear gas, pepper spray, and police batons. While many observers applauded the spontaneity of the citywide protests, little attention has been paid to the involvement of the Christian church in the prodemocracy struggle. This article draws on field observations and media reports to examine the various societal networks, resources, and mechanisms that Christian and non-Christian actors employed for grassroots mobilization. The crux of discussion is the political and theological polarization of the church, as the Umbrella protest revealed a qualitative shift in the attitude of local Catholics and Protestants toward political awakening and civic engagement. Such findings throw light on the intersection of faith and politics in Hong Kong’s continuous struggle for democratic governance.

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References

6

Jennifer Ngo, ‘Religion on the Occupy Central Front Line Puts Faith into Practice’, South China Morning Post, 27 October 2014, website of the South China Morning Post, http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1625126/religion-occupy-central-front-line-puts-faith-practice?page=all, accessed 1 May 2015; Emer McCarthy, ‘Church Opens Doors to Hong Kong Protesters’, Vatican Radio, 15 October 2014, website of Radio Vaticana, http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2014/10/15/church_opens_doors_to_hong_kong_protesters/1108585, accessed 1 May 2015.

7

Ned Levin, ‘Hong Kong Democracy Protests Carry a Christian Mission for Some: Churches Are Deeply Embedded in Hong Kong Society’, The Wall Street Journal, 3 October 2014, website of The Wall Street Journal, http://online.wsj.com/articles/hong-kong-democracy-protests-carry-a-christian-mission-for-some-1412255663, accessed 1 May 2015.

14

Heather Timmons, ‘Pro-Beijing Legislators Want to Investigate the Churches Supporting Hong Kong’s Protests’, Quartz, 31 October 2014, website of Quartz, http://qz.com/289190/pro-beijing-legislators-want-to-investigate-the-churches-supporting-hong-kongs-protests/, accessed 1 May 2015.

Figures

  • A bamboo cross marked the boundary of an occupied site in Mong Kok. The photo was taken by anonymous street demonstrators and posted on the public domain.
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  • A Catholic shrine. The characters read, ‘The Heavenly Lord [or, God] reveals justice and democracy. Jesus Christ blesses us with peace and freedom’. The photo was taken by anonymous street demonstrators and posted on the public domain.
    View in gallery
  • A statue of Chinese warrior god Guan Gong in Mong Kok. The characters in red banners read: ‘A righteous deity shrines upon us. His bravery protects the nation’. The characters in white papers read: ‘The warrior God won’t protect the police bullies, who side with the evil rulers’. The photo was taken by anonymous street demonstrators and posted on the public domain.
    View in gallery
  • Some mountain climbers unfurled a giant yellow banner upon the Lion Rock Cliff on 23 October 2014. It reads: ‘I want true universal suffrage’. The photo was taken by anonymous street demonstrators and posted on the public domain.
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  • A Christian Spiritual Resource Centre at the Occupied Protest Site in Admiralty, Hong Kong. The characters in white posters read from left to right: ‘The Lord Gives us Peace’, ‘Take Up the Cross, Defend Our City’, ‘The Church-run Schools Support Scholarism (i.e., a Hong Kong high school activist group)’, and ‘Fight for Real Universal Suffrage, Stand by the People’.

    (courtesy of joseph tse-hei lee)

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