The entity called “Hong Kong” off the southern coast of China refers to the small island of Hong Kong, the Kowloon peninsula, the New Territories and several offshore islets. Comprised of only 426 sq. miles, Hong Kong is the world’s fourth-most densely populated region with a 2018 population of nearly 7.5 million.
In 1842, Hong Kong island became a British colony as a result of the British defeat of China’s last dynasty (Qing) in the Opium War. The colony expanded to the Kowloon Peninsula in 1860 after the Second Opium War, and was further extended when in 1898, Britain obtained a 99-year lease of the New Territories — an area of 368 sq. mi. between Kowloon and the border with China.
As a British colony with a capitalist free-market economy, Hong Kong became a roaring economic success as one of the world’s most significant financial centers and commercial ports. It is the world’s 10th-largest exporter and 9th-largest importer; its legal tender, the Hong Kong dollar, is the world’s 13th-most traded currency.
In 1997, Britain’s 99-year lease of New Territories ended. London, however, elected to return to Communist China not just the New Territories, but Hong Kong island and Kowloon as well. Beijing made Hong Kong a special administrative region, with the promise that Hong Kong would have a government and economic system separate from that of mainland China.
Beginning in late April 2019, tens of thousands of Hong Kong Chinese took to the streets to protest a proposed extradition bill, the Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019. The bill would extradite to China accused Hong Kong citizens and foreign nationals, and subject them to China’s arbitrary and undemocratic legal system. Protesters correctly argue that the passage of the extradiction bill into law would mean the end of Hong Kong’s independent judiciary and its status as a special administrative region.
The protest on June 9 was attended by over a million people, calling for the withdrawal of the bill and resignation of Chief Executive Carrie Lam.
Reuters reports (via the New York Post), June 18, 2019, that the protesters are singing Christian hymns, especially “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord”, which has become “the unlikely anthem of Hong Kong’s protests against an extradition bill that have drawn millions of people onto the streets”.
For the past week, the hymn has been heard almost nonstop at the main protest site, in front of the city’s Legislative Council and at marches and even at tense standoffs with the police.
It started with a group of Catholic students who sang several Christian songs at the main protest site, with “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord” catching on among the crowd, even though only about 10% of Hong Kong people are Christian….
The hymn was composed in 1974 by Linda Stassen-Benjamin in the United States for Easter. Its five words are repeated over four stanzas in a minor key, which gives it an air of meditative solemnity.
The protests over the past 10 days have been largely peaceful although police on Wednesday last week used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowds.
“Stop shooting, or else we sing ‘Hallelujah to the Lord’,” read one protest placard after the rubber bullets were fired.
Protesters say the religious song has often helped defuse tension with the police.
“It has a calming effect,” said Timothy Lam, 58, a Catholic priest at Grace Church Hong Kong, who has attended the protest with other churchmen to promote peace.
“The police had a lot of equipment, they were very tense and searching people. The students sang this to show they were peaceful,” Lam said of a confrontation last week.
For now, the protesters appear to be winning.
Hong Kong’s Beijing-backed government leader, Chief Executive Carrie Lam, has postponed the introduction of the extradition bill and apologized in the face of the huge show of opposition. Lam is Catholic and some protesters said they thought their adoption of “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord” might have helped sway her.
Please pray for the protesters.
Please pray for Hong Kong.
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