Hong Kong Democracy Activist Says Catholic Faith Gives Meaning to His Exile | Catholic National Register

“I was quite ready to retire in Hong Kong … but I was severely attacked by the pro-Beijing media … and I was very afraid of being arrested and prosecuted.”

HONG KONG – Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joseph Cheng said his Catholic faith supported him when he left his home after the Chinese Communists took control of the state.

Dramatic changes occurred quickly in his city thereafter, leading him and many others to leave their homes under threat of arrest if they continued their commitment to Hong Kong’s historic democracy. Cheng says his Catholic faith gave him the strength to accept suffering in the name of the values ​​he holds dear.

“The changes have been rapid and have exceeded the expectations of ordinary Hong Kongers, ordinary supporters of the pro-democracy movement,” said Joseph Cheng.

“Among my friends who are activists, who are fervent activists, it’s a pretty sad story. Most of them have been detained, ”he said.

More than 10,000 people have been arrested in Hong Kong since the 2019 anti-government protest movement took more than a million people onto the streets.

During the first year under the national security law imposed in June 2020, 117 people have been arrested and more than 60 politicians, activists, journalists and students have been charged under the law, according to the Associated Press.

“A lot of young activists have left in recent months,” Cheng said.

“Almost two-thirds of the most active participants in the pro-democracy movement are either detained or prosecuted and therefore cannot leave, or they have left,” he said.

It is estimated that up to one million people could leave Hong Kong, which has a population of 7.5 million, over the next few years.

Cheng is one of many Hong Kong residents who have already chosen to leave in response to the threat posed by the National Security Act. He left with his family for Australia in July 2020 and has since settled in Auckland, New Zealand.

Others from Hong Kong have traveled to the UK or Taiwan, both of which have offered special visas in view of the situation.

“I didn’t expect to leave Hong Kong,” said Cheng, a 71-year-old retired political science professor.

“I was quite ready to retire in Hong Kong … but I was severely attacked by the pro-Beijing media … and I was very afraid of being arrested and prosecuted.”

Cheng said that due to recent events, many people are pessimistic about Hong Kong’s future and that he does not believe he will be able to return in the foreseeable future.

Yet he said his Catholic faith helped make sense of his suffering and shape his belief that values ​​are worth fighting for even when one understands that “not much can be achieved, and the situation will probably continue to deteriorate ”.

“As Catholics, we believe in the hereafter and in eternal life. And we believe that the love of God, the maintenance of our faith, the maintenance of our love for… the members of society are important, ”he said.

“And because of our belief in these things, we tend to accept the suffering, the trials, the challenges in today’s world … in a more prepared way.”

For Cheng, it may also explain why “many pro-democracy leaders and activists are Catholic”.

“They received a Catholic education,” he said. “And I am one of those who hold these beliefs, who hold these values ​​and therefore are slightly more willing to sacrifice themselves and engage in activities to uphold the values ​​we hold dear.”

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