2014-10-15 08:05:00

Church opens doors to Hong Kong protesters

(Vatican Radio)  “There has always been the danger of violence, but by and large the danger comes from the fact that people attack [the protesters],” says Fr. Jim Mulroney is editor of the Hong Kong Catholic weekly newspaper the Sunday Examiner.

He was speaking to Emer McCarthy following overnight scuffles between peaceful pro-democracy protesters and police. Authorities say  police arrested 45 protesters this morning, using pepper spray on those who resisted, as they cleared a peaceful sit-in from a major road in the Chinese-controlled city.


Authorities say police allegedly involved in the beating of one of the activists would be removed from their positions after footage of the incident went viral, sparking outrage from some lawmakers and the public.

“They have been attacked by triads, they were attacked by taxi drivers and truck drivers who have been getting frustrated”, adds Fr. Mulroney.  “But what is interesting is that support for them is growing.  Even people who may not support their tactics support their ultimate goal”.

That goal, and the reason behind the nearly three weeks of protest led by Students and the Occupy Central movement, is greater democracy and universal suffrage in the election of the Territory’s leader, the Chief Executive, due to be held in 2017. Beijing said on Aug. 31 that only candidates that get majority backing from a nominating committee appointed by Beijing would be able to contest a full city-wide vote to choose Hong Kong's next leader.

The Catholic Church in Hong Kong is doing its best to provide pastoral and practical support for all involved.  The Vicar General of the diocese has ordered the parish church closest to the protesters encampment to open a ‘comfort center’ where protesters can come to sleep and wash, or even just to talk and pray.

Fr. Mulroney says that parishioners are manning the center 24/7 and have set up a wall- initially to help children express the impact of the protests on their lives – where Hong Kongers of all ages congregate to leave messages, poems and drawings.  

However, city authorities have proven to be intransigent to the protesters demands cancelling proposed dialogue at the last minute over the weekend, which has effectively brought the situation to an impasse.

“It seems to me to be coming more apparent that they can only do what Beijing tells them they can do”, concludes Fr. Mulroney. “What we have ended up with is a sitting city.  We have got students sitting in the street and the government sitting on its hands”.   

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