Twenty-five years ago, I was sitting on the ground of Beijing’s Tiananmen Square with hundreds of thousands of peaceful fellow students protesters. It ended with a military massacre by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). I have been watching with grave concern the still unfolding protest by thousands of Hong Kong students over the past 3 weeks.
Not only do I have a personal interest in Hong Kong (my wife and I spent 8 months there before we were accepted as refugees by the United States, along with our 2-month old son Daniel), but also it reminds me of the dire consequences for these Hong Kong students and the potential ramifications for mainland China.
The protest in Beijing in 1989 was triggered by the sudden death of the former Party Secretary Mr. Hu Yaobang, who was ousted by the CCP’s elder patrons for his pro-democratic reform attitude. The massive demonstration also occurred because of the wide frustration over the lack of democratic reform and massive corruption among the children of the Party and government leaders.
But the protest in Hong Kong was triggered because the Chinese government deliberately broke its promise to the international commitment to fully implement the so-called “One Country, Two Systems” policy. In 1984, in signing a joint declaration with United Kingdom, in return for its commitment to hand over sovereignty of Hong Kong, China made a formal commitment by pledging to allow Hong Kong to enjoy a “high degree of autonomy.”
Following that declaration, China promised to allow Hong Kong’s citizens to “directly and freely” elect their own chief executive by 2017. But the CCP — ironically led by the princelings, sons and daughters of the more corrupted officials from the time of Tiananmen Square student movement — is determined to make Hong Kong closer to the one system in mainland China. It ruled that only a few pro-CCP candidates who are selected by its 1200 members, most of whom are Beijing’s loyalists, will be allowed on the ballot. So essentially the election is neither direct nor free.
The future of Hong Kong is at stake. Despite the students’ and citizens’ extremely peaceful, civilized manner of conducting their protest, the current Hong Kong regime, with direct order from Beijing, threatened students with excessive force by collaborating with street thugs, and by releasing tear gas and pepper spray to harass the students who have nothing but an umbrella.
Perhaps the most dramatic difference between the two protests in Beijing and Hong Kong is that most of the leaders of the protest are actually Christians. Although this fact received less notice in the mainstream media, this is significant. Two of the leaders of the civil disobedience group, “Occupy Central,” are dedicated evangelical Christians. One is a retired Baptist pastor, and the other is a law school professor. And Joshua Wong, the public face and leader of the students who is only 18 years old, is a devout Christian who was raised by his Christian parents to care about justice for the poor, the needy, and the vulnerable. Of course, the elderly, retired “conscience of Hong Kong,” Cardinal Zen has even chosen to sit with the students for days. In fact the full name of the “Occupy Central” is actually called “Occupy Central with Peace and Love” which was launched at a Baptist church.
I think the most vivid contrast between the two is the goal for the protest. I remember back to 25 years ago when we students appealed to the CCP government to grant us liberty. At times, two students even knelt down for a long time in front of the marble steps of the “Great Hall of the People” with their appeal letter in their hands. The CCP leaders, of course, did not show up to meet with us.
But Hong Kong citizens, led by these Christian leaders, were not begging their liberty from the government. Instead, they believe their liberties are not given as an extra luxury from the government, and so they want to hold their government accountable by simply demanding that the political leaders fulfill their commitment which was made both to the citizens of Hong Kong and to the international community. They are doing this prayerfully.
I will continue to pray and ask our American brothers and sisters to pray with the Hong Kong citizens that a peaceful protest, with love from Christ, will bear more fruit this time. The Beijing dictators should be held accountable by us all, because in the end, freedom and liberty are God’s gifts to all human beings. As Thomas Jefferson pointed out, “God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?”
Bob Fu is a Chinese American Christian pastor, and the founder and president of the China Aid Association, which provides legal aid to Christians in China. Fu was born in 1968 in Shandong province and started studying at Liaocheng University in 1987. During his time at university, Fu engaged in political activism and started the process of joining the Communist Party of China, with the intention of becoming a government official. He organized a group of students from his university to participate in the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 in Beijing.