Under the Umbrella: Grounded Christian Theologies and Democratic Working Alliances in Hong Kong

In: Review of Religion and Chinese Society
Justin K. H. Tse Comparative Religion Unit, Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, University of Washington,

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Taking the geographies of the 2014 Umbrella Movement as its point of departure, this paper provides a geographical reading of democratic landscapes in Hong Kong. Using a new cultural geography approach, this study unpacks the grounded theologies that undergird the participation of Christians in democratic movements in Hong Kong. The central argument is that two Christian grounded theologies in Hong Kong—collaborative and critical—have been generated according to how Christians acting within two different working alliances have positioned themselves vis-à-vis the Hong Kong government. Drawing from both ethnographic and public archival research, I trace the origins of a democratic working alliance back to the 1978 Golden Jubilee Incident, after which a democratic consensus was developed in Hong Kong. Following this thread through the 1997 handover, I demonstrate that this consensus bifurcated into two groups of Christians who disagreed theologically as to whether collaborating or critiquing the government was the ideal way to implement democratic reform. This paper contributes to the study of religion in Chinese societies by providing a geographical approach that can be used for comparative work in the social scientific study of religion and democracy.

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