Hong Kong democracy2
Foreign Affairs

Christianity versus Communism: Hong Kong's battle for liberty and democracy

No matter what issues of religion and politics have occupied us over the past week, there has been a feeling that we ought to be following the umbrellas, black T-shirts and yellow ribbons spreading over Hong Kong. And not only following, but concerned enough to burden our souls with their symbolic meaning, think past the chop-suey, and pray.

The battle is nothing new: the people want the right to elect their freely-chosen candidates to govern them; the government seeks to vet those who may stand as candidates and thereby rig the election. Whether it is China, Cuba, Vietnam or the old Soviet Union (not to mention North Korea and a host of “former” Communist countries), the coercive one-party state – which often cloaks itself beneath the façade of multi-party democracy – is antithetical to every notion of liberty. The people may have freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of worship (as they do in Hong Kong), but God help you if your speech is too condemning of the government, or your assembly too troubling for the police, or your worship so zealous that it demands manifestation in the public square. In the Communist state, disobedience can be a capital offence. The western TV cameras may catch the tear gas and broadcast anger. But we can never know what corrective punishments are being meted out in the police cells.

In Hong Kong, anyone may stand for election as long as they accord with China’s socialist precepts and Marxist-Leninist dogma. Perhaps that’s too strong: anyone may stand for election as long as they are trusted by the Chinese government. Trusted, yes, that’s better. After a century of British administration, Marxism in Hong Kong may be muddled with manifestations of state capitalism and conflated with all manner of residual assertions of social liberalism, but, essentially, the governing elite forms the representative (ie Beijing-friendly) nominating committee which selects candidates and approves the Chief Executive. This is the constitution bequeathed to the people of Hong Kong by Chris Patten.

Despite having the right to universal suffrage (which, it must be observed, the British never granted under colonial rule), tens (hundreds?) of thousands of student protesters feel their freedoms are being negated and their rights infringed. And so they demand the resignation of Chief Executive CY Leung for his handling of the situation. But the Chinese Communist Party is having none of it, not least because Hong Kong enjoys considerable liberties never dreamed of by the People’s Republic, including an independent judiciary and a free press. With universal suffrage, they aver, Hongkongers have never had it so good.

But student idealism transcends political realism, and their revolution demands reform. Their cause has divided Hong Kong, not least because of the blocked roads, commuting inconvenience and economic hardship caused by falling levels of tourism. But much support is coming their way from the churches – Protestant, Anglican and Roman Catholic: ‘Christians show support for Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Protests‘; ‘Christians back HK democracy protests with food and faith‘; ‘Hong Kong Cardinal makes appeal for peace amidst protests‘; ‘Zen serves as reminder of Pope’s China challenge‘. According too Professor Joseph Cheng Yu-shek of the City University of Hong Kong:

“The proportion of Christians supporting the movement is higher than the proportion of the Hong Kong population in general. Those who have Christian beliefs have a stronger distrust of the Communist Party of China because they are certainly an atheist party, of course. And I would say that Christians, by definition, certainly they accord a higher priority to spiritual things than material things.. Christians in Hong Kong, they see that economic development has not brought more religious tolerance in China, so despite economic development, despite improvement in living standards and opening to the external world, tolerance of Christianity especially has not been improving, in fact in the recent two years persecution has strengthened.”

And so the unanimous ecumenical exhortation from Hong Kong’s Christian leaders is to agitate for liberty; to exhort the faithful to clamour for democracy; to protest day and night for the right to elect freely-chosen candidates so that the government of the people might arise from the people. “It’s high time that we really showed that we want to be free and not to be slaves,” said Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun. “We must unite together.” And so the Christians are, because the demand for democracy is contiguous with their quest for religious liberty. The Cardinal explains:

“In a place where education is not sufficient, people will get cheated easily. There will be danger of manipulation. However, the basic conditions in Hong Kong are ready. People are mature enough.. Beijing does not allow civil nomination because they fear. They do not trust in us, thinking that we will intentionally choose a leader who will confront them.”

“The crucifixion of Jesus is political in meaning,” said Protestant theologian Rose Wu. Indeed it is: to live out the Christian faith is to participate in the structures of the state while confronting economic, political and economic injustices. Without freedom, this mission is impossible. Without freedom, there are no crosses, Bibles or prayer meetings. Democracy in Hong Kong is not simply a secular political pursuit: it is a manifestation of liberation theology. It is part of God’s battle for man’s freedom.

  • Shadrach Fire

    If only Christians in this country or the west generally would stand and protest like these Chinese.

    • SeekTruthFromFacts

      Some of us do!

  • carl jacobs

    I get it. Liberty means the church is free to conduct the business of the Gospel without interference. It is precious to those who possess it. Even more so to those who do not.

    And yet it has nothing to do with Christian freedom. God is not battling for man’s freedom. God has already purchased man’s freedom. When the Son sets you free, He does not free you from the authority of autocrats. He frees you from slavery to sin. That is why the Roman slave was free despite his slavery. The eschaton is not immanent.

    carl

    • Phil Rowlands

      You need to write a book Carl

      CS Lewis and Timothy Keller would have some serious competition!

      • carl jacobs

        But I’m an Engineer. We are only allowed to handle the English language under close supervision.

        carl
        Who thanks you for the kind thought

        • Plus, you would need to develop finer sensibilities and poetic qualities to counter-balance the engineer’s rationality and logic.

          • carl jacobs

            Hey, I can do ‘finer’ and ‘poetic.’ Here, let me provide a hypothetical example:

            That argument sits like a pool of rancid sludge discharged from the waste pipe of a camper by someone too thoughtless or too lazy to find a proper venue for the disposal of fecal matter, and so he just drained it right onto the road.

            See? Poetic. Finer sensibilities. And stuff.

            And you thought I couldn’t do it.

            carl

          • No, you see you proved Jack’s very point by starting off with “That argument …. “ and using negative imagery.

            Write something about the beauty and wonder of creation. Develop your mystical insight. Walk on a beech; look at the stars. Watch a 5 day cricket Test Match.

          • carl jacobs

            I watched a sunset the other day. It was red. And sort of yellow. One might say it was beautiful in a red-yellow sort of way. I wonder what time that was?

            QED

            carl

          • Lol …………. it’s a start.

            Here’s one Jack wrote when last he strolled along a sea shore:

            Waves

            (The Kingdom of God is within you)

            the waves sing and dance
            an eternal musical
            of laments and praise
            sharing man’s sorrows and pain
            showing a place where peace reigns

            Now, for your homework, write a piece on a sunset and how it affects you. Follow the haiku format of 5-7-5-7-7. And feel it – don’t just see it. Witnessing creation is a form of prayer – a conversation with God.

          • carl jacobs

            The sun sets at dusk
            Blackness falls upon the Earth
            Shadows creep forward
            To hide the dark heart of man.
            Out are all the lights. Out all.

          • Still too morbid, Carl.

            sun rises at dawn
            illuminating the earth
            dark flees before it
            restoring man’s wounded soul
            drawing us into its light

          • carl jacobs

            Jack

            It’s not morbid. I might allow that it’s dark and somber. But the artist in me likes dark and somber. Anyways, you said to write a haiku about the sunset. That’s a haiku about the sunset. And it turned out pretty good, if I do say so myself. This is where you admit my poetic capacity.

            carl

          • Poetic capacity requires demonstrating an imaginative or sensitively emotional style of expression. You met those criteria.

            As for, “the artist in me likes dark and somber (sic)”, Jack would say seriousness and sadness need counterbalancing with lightness and joy.

            The haiku did succeed in reflecting a dark and sombre view.

          • carl jacobs

            OK, OK…

            Here is a song I wrote several years ago – first and last verse. See if you can figure out the tune I chose. I guarantee you are intimately familiar with this tune.

            Oh Come Ye Faithful
            Brought forth from every tribe and clan.
            Called out from the nations,
            Foreknown before the world began
            He loved you
            And swore to uphold you
            And pledged to redeem you
            By His right hand

            Unto the Father
            Unto Our Lord, His only Son,
            And unto the Spirit,
            All three the eternal God, yet surely one God
            Of whom we cry “Holy!”
            And thrice again “Holy!”
            For aye, Amen

            carl

          • Indications of ‘limited atonement’ and a stress on the wrath and justice of God aside, not bad.
            The tune?

          • CliveM

            A 5 Day Test match will do him a lot of good. Some tapes of John Arlott commentaries for bed at night as well.

          • John Arlott was brilliant. Many summer Jack spent listening to his fine words and stories.

    • Jack agrees with where you are coming from, Carl, but in fairness, “Immanentize the Eschaton” properly used, refers to a secular messianism where it is believed the world’s disorder can be overcome by human effort.
      There is a role for Christian mass protest. Jack doubts it is necessity in Hong Kong at this time.

      • carl jacobs

        But it’s the same basic motivation – to flatten the greater spiritual meaning into the material world. It’s no different than those who rejected Jesus as king because he didn’t come to smash the Romans and establish an Earthly Kingdom.

        There is an undercurrent here of men conforming spiritual truths to facilitate the achievement of material desires – in this case freedom defined as self-rule. Men are not by right autonomous creatures entitled to self-rule. That is modern man’s view of himself. And that is why he has so easily turned liberty into license. That is not freedom in the biblical sense. To be free in the biblical sense is to be free to obey God. The slave to sin does not possess that capacity.

        carl

        • Except when rulers are acting sinfully the Church has a moral obligation to speak out against them. Not to bring in a secular heaven on earth but to hold them to account for personal sin that causes suffering and deprivation of others.

          One of Jack’s Christian heroes is Oscar Romero, the conservative and orthodox Bishop of the Catholic Church in El Salvador before his assassination. He had this to say:

          “When we struggle for human rights, for freedom, for dignity, when we feel that it is a ministry of the church to concern itself for those who are hungry, for those who have no schools, for those who are deprived, we are not departing from God’s promise. He comes to free us from sin, and the church knows that sin’s consequences are all such injustices and abuses. The church knows it is saving the world when it undertakes to speak also of such things.”

          • carl jacobs

            Jack

            I wasn’t so much responding to the events in China as I was to AB Cranmer’s assertion that God is battling for man’s freedom. I think we have made freedom into an Idol of our own self-image. Which should scare us. Because God does not suffer idols.

            carl

          • Then we are agreed.

  • JayBee

    I am not at all comfortable with Liberation Theology. The mandate from Christ was to preach the Gospel. I don’t recall the Apostles agitating for political reform by Rome. The restrictions felt in Hong Kong and China can surely be no worse than those in the Roman Empire and probably a great deal better. Yet it’s a fact that many freedoms enjoyed by Christians have only been achieved through centuries of political struggle and the advance of democracy.

    Hong Kong Christians are prominent leaders in the current stand-off and one is named Joshua. Lets hope he has the qualities of the Israelite Leader. He is likely to need them. Joshua Wong is only 17 years old but leads the activist group that has played a key role in launching and organizing the demonstrations. He is an evangelical Protestant. Two of the three leaders of Occupy Central, the main protest group, are Christians. A former Catholic bishop of Hong Kong is another prominent supporter.

    The Wall Street Journal reports that Christianity has been a visible element of the demonstrations, with prayer groups, crosses, and protesters reading Bibles in the street. The significance of all this will not be lost on Beijing who have always taken a dim view of those who defy the Party’s decrees by placing observance of their Religion above loyalty to the State. The Chinese Government are well aware that Pope John Paul II and his Polish Catholics played a conspicuous role in the downfall of communism in Eastern Europe. The rulers in Beijing also know that indigenous Christians were equally prominent in the pro-democracy
    movements that brought down dictators in South Korea and the Philippines in the 1980’s. This does not bode well for religious freedom in an authoritarian society. Even if bloodshed is averted and a political compromise reached there must be a significant risk that Christians will face persecution later on as punishment for their high profile in the current disturbances and as a future deterrent. However, persecution often backfires on the persecutors, only serving to spread the Gospel.

    We need to remain prayerfully aware of Hong Kong and China but also remember that liberty is not the core business of Christianity. Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my
    teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the
    truth, and the truth will set you free.’

    • IanCad

      A good post JayBee.
      Christianity is spreading in China. Praise the Lord!
      It has expanded, not through political agitation, but because the message of hope and salvation has been preached.
      As far as ratings for economic liberty are concerned; Hong Kong scores the highest in the world.
      We’re 14th. The USA is 12th.
      Maybe a lesson for us somewhere in those figures.

    • Uncle Brian

      JayBee, is there any evidence that the Christian protesters in HK are acting under the influence of liberation theology, either tacitly or explicitly? From what I’ve seen of liberation theology here in Latin America, I would expect its Chinese adherents, if any, to side with the People’s Republic against the perils of “bourgeois democracy”.

      • JayBee

        When protesters make comments like The crucifixion of Jesus is political in meaning. and Wasn’t Jesus himself sort of a revolutionary?it rather suggests that they are. The quote that really clinches it is this one: It’s high time that we really showed that we want to be free and not to be slaves. Hong Kong is a place that enjoys a lot more freedom than the masses in the rest of China.

        There is a difference compared to Latin America; their good guys are your bad guys.

        • Uncle Brian

          You mean that capitalists are good guys and socialists are bad guys? For a follower of liberation theology? I don’t think so.

          • JayBee

            In the Hong Kong example it appears to be so. At least that’s my understanding of the final paragraph of Cranmers original post.

        • SeekTruthFromFacts

          I think Uncle Brian’s perception is right. Hong Kong evangelicals (including English-speaking Anglicans) and conservative RCs are against liberation theology and in favour of genuine universal suffrage.

          Liberation theology is popular with theologically liberal and politically semi-Marxist Chinese Christians. That obviously includes the Mainland state church authorities (TSPM). It also includes most Cantonese-speaking Anglicans in HK and Episcopalians in Taiwan, who are all firmly at the liberal end (HK was the first Anglican diocese to ordain women). Paul Kwong, the present Anglican Archbishop, is a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consulative Conference, which can be crudely explained as the Communist equivalent of the House of Lords. Unsurprisingly, he is against the protests.

          The fact that the comments Happy Jack quoted come from a young Anglican support this analysis. She has picked up the language of liberation theology, but like many liberal Anglicans she has followed the way of the world – it’s just that *her* world of young middle-class HKers are out on the streets despite their parents’ wishes!

  • At one time Happy Jack was a fully signed up member of the Communist Party – *gasp* – and looked to the proletariat to bring down Capitalism and all its ills. He was a young man and re-evaluating his Catholic childhood. On returning to his faith, Liberation Theology was attractive to him as he had a lot of relearning to do.

    As Jack understands it, Liberation theology is a moral reaction to poverty caused by social injustice and it uses many Marxist concepts and phrases, focussing on institutionalised or systemic sin rather than the of the sin of individual offenders and specific offences of regimes. It looks at the Gospel teachings of Jesus Christ from the perspective of the poor and disadvantaged and seeks to end the gaps between rich and poor in social and economic structures through ‘bottom-up’ struggle and some proponents go so far as to advocate armed insurgency.
    There is a struggle in Hong Kong for full liberal democratic rights.

  • C Law

    More than half of the top tier of Hong Kong Government officials are practicing evangelical christians or catholics, yet are firmly commited to the Government line. This article only shows half of the religious aspects of this controversy.

    • CliveM

      Do you have evidence to support this?

      • C Law

        Check their bio’s on the HK Govt website or read the HK newspapers

        • CliveM

          Ok thanks.

          • The leaders of both the Catholic and Anglican Churches in Hong Kong are urging caution about these mass protests. The latter advised his parishioners to “remain silent” on the pro-democracy issue.

  • Manfarang

    Hong Kong is not an outpost of Christianity.Christians are very much a minority there.Since the Hands Up in 1997 there has been a renewal of Buddhist and Chinese folk religion

  • len

    All the attempts made by man to create a fair and just society have failed.Communism is just one in the long list of failures and the people of Hong Kong don`t need it or want it.
    This present World system is staggering from disaster to disaster and options are fast running out.
    When God finally runs out of patience Christ will set up His Kingdom and I cannot wait for that time to come!.

    • Manfarang

      There was little democracy there when Hong Kong was under British rule.
      The Chinese value stability and concensus, western democracy is seen as divisive.
      Christianity has a checkered history in China.

  • Phil Rowlands

    I am not sure that democracy should be particularly valued by Christians.

    If the CofE Synod is anything to go by it is a complete disaster for Churches.

    My view is that “democracy” has gone way past its sell by date especially in the West. Too easily manipulated and increasingly we are getting the imposition of a tyrannical “consensus” (51%+). These “winning” views are “good” for society for no other reason than 51%+ of people voted for them. Effectively the 49% who thought differently are viewed with suspicion and even legislated so that their views are distasteful or even hateful.

    • Darter Noster

      The Church of England Synod isn’t anything to go by.

      Whatever the flaws of democracy it’s got to be better than the alternative, as a political system.

      • Phil Rowlands

        There is more than the one alternative (Whatever that is)

      • There are many political systems. It took the West centuries to develop our particular democratic institutions.
        Read up on Chinese history and why their leaders are so fearful of Christianity. A clue. Research the Taiping Rebellion and the Boxer Rebellion.

        • Darter Noster

          Neither of those events supply a valid reason as to why democracy should be denied to the Chinese people today.

          • Jack didn’t say they did. However, background history is important. The point he is making is that liberal democracy is not equivalent to or necessary for Christianity. To push for it in Hong Kong’s particular circumstances is likely to result in millions of Christians on mainland China suffering further regulation and repression.

          • Darter Noster

            I quite agree that Christianity and liberal democracy are not the same thing. Early Christianity is the best example anywhere of a religion that thrived under government persecution. Christianity is independent of government.

            But the desire of the people of Hong Kong and the rest of China to be governed fairly and properly is likewise a question independent of religion. To say that Chinese Christians should keep quiet in order to stop the government persecuting their co-religionists is to surrender to the Beijing government’s tactics.

            Chinese people of any religion and none need to stand against the Communist government. Unless and until they do nothing will change.

          • Some things need to move slowly and advances can be slow.

        • CliveM

          Let’s be honest HJ, the main reason China won’t allow democracy is that it would instantly break apart.

          • Agreed. And then there will be chaos in that part of the world – Islam, Buddhism and different factions of Christianity; different ethnic groups after national independence. Talk about destabilising the world.

          • CliveM

            Yes it would all get scary quite quickly. It’s a conundrum, I am a democrat and believe that democracy is the best form of Govt. But for some parts of the world, you do wonder.

      • CliveM

        Dartor Nostor

        You are making good points. I note you have asked what alternative people would suggest. I don’t see an answer to that yet. Or even an attempt of one!

    • IanCad

      I do rather agree with you.
      If we can accept the fact that the average voter is pretty dumb, it is sobering to reflect that half of the electorate is even more dopey.

  • The Inspector General

    Damnable students !!

    They’re going to wreck everything. The megalith which is Chinese communism is slowly, very slowly, coming round, but these blighters want their jam today. It seems that students the world over are thickos, and not just in the UK.

    So, if any Hong Kong parents who are unlucky enough to have a protesting student at home are reading this, give him a thick ear. And if it’s a daughter, take a scissors to her clothes. A bit of essential home education, if you will.

    • We are in general agreement, Inspector.

    • Darter Noster

      I take your point, Inspector, but I can’t blame the students. If you were in their position, living under such a regime, would you be satisfied with the thought that your great-grandchild, if they were lucky, might be able to vote to change the corrupt, bureaucratic and brutal government of the Communist Party of China?

      • The Inspector General

        et tu Darter ?
        The price to pay for this pathetic display of cage rattling is the suppression of Christianity in Hong Kong. Maybe Henry VIII style…

        • Darter Noster

          If nobody rattles the tyrants’ cages nothing will ever change.

          • The Inspector General

            Nobly spoken Sir. What are you like at tank climbing. One presumes you’re not going to ‘let someone else do it’

          • Or, alternatively:

            “Be as wise as serpents and as pure as doves.”

          • Darter Noster

            I’ve been shot at by the soldiers of a repressive regime, and witnessed first hand the way unaccountable authorities conduct themselves, but at the end of that experience I was able to wave a British passport and get out of the country.

            I do not, however, forget the sacrifices made to make Britain the country it us today, and whatever its failings I will defend democracy and free speech to my dying breath. Fortunately nobody is asking me to make such an extreme sacrifice because this country (at the time of writing) still values basic freedoms. Should it ever cease to do so you will find me climbing on tanks with the best if them when the time comes.

          • The Inspector General

            Indeed, it is for his handful of votes in a lifetime that the Inspector considers himself so clever and classless and free.

          • Darter Noster

            Compared to the hapless denizens of many countries, you are precisely that Inspector. Whatever our frustrations with the present system may be, we must never forget that the choice is between imperfect democracy and tyranny, because any form of government not accountable to the people will descend into that.

          • The Inspector General

            Drug importers and murderers are shot in China. One does admire that and might even trade it in for democracy if this man is ever the victim again of a blasted addict stealing his property…

          • Darter Noster

            One can execute murderers in a democracy. We did until 1965; the Americans still do.

            It is said that there has never been a popular majority in this country against the death penalty before or after it’s abolition, but that illustrates precisely the point: don’t confuse problems with democracy with a fundamental flaw needing the whole system to be replaced.

          • The Inspector General

            Democracy is the precursor to degeneration. Should it disappear from the UK one day (…when we’re swallowed by the EU empire ?…), then this man won’t be shedding any tears over it…
            Christianity, on the other hand, is everything, and can thrive without democracy, SO LONG AS IT’S NOT SEEN AS A THREAT !!!

          • Darter Noster

            But what is the alternative to a government which can be removed from office by popular vote that you are proposing?

            Absolute monarchy? Fascism? Oligarchy? Anarchy?

            These have all been tried, and have all failed spectacularly and brutally. The current manifestation of democracy is flawed but that is an argument for changing it (for which you need something of the revolutionary spirit) not replacing it with something worse.

          • The Inspector General

            We will develop an acceptable alternative. Meanwhile, thanks to democracy, some poof can call the current poof he’s living with ‘husband’. Now these blighters are going all out to demand from democracy their lifestyle is normal, and God help you if you even mildly object !! As the Inspector said, it’s a precursor…

          • Darter Noster

            Oh we will, will we? We’ve been given millennia to do so and have failed. That alone should tell us something.

            Gay marriage is not an excuse to abandon the principle that a Goverment should be accountable to the people it governs. Christians should know better than most that government decisions will not always go their way. They are still better off under a democracy than they would be under any other form of governance.

          • The Inspector General

            What else has democracy given us: A criminal justice system that won’t send criminals to prison. A prison system that doesn’t deter people from going back in, if they’re lucky enough to be selected. 4 million muslims including those abroad learning how to kill us. Black crime and riots. An acceptance of illegal drugs. Abortion on demand. A breakdown of family life thanks to impressive benefits. Paying for the EU. Immigration out of control, and house prices that are going to cripple future couples (that’s man and woman, not some gay man and his pet pig). Stupid school kids thanks to comprehensives. Young adults who think dressing up is their finest torn jeans. Older youth who are encouraged to drink themselves stupid…

          • Darter Noster

            Democracy has its problems but getting policy decisions we as individuals disagree with is not one of them; that is the whole point of democracy.

            Again I ask: however imperfect it is, what would you replace it with?

          • The Inspector General

            You’ve been told. Something better will turn up. When it does, embrace it, and kick democracy into the ditch. For Christ’s sake, who did not know democracy in Judea…

          • Darter Noster

            “Something better will turn up.” How reassuring.

            Care to share any thoughts on what that might be? Or are we all just supposed to suddenly realise that our political rights have disappeared for a terrifically good reason that we’d understand if only we were bright enough ?

          • The Inspector General

            A meritocracy, for example. Unable to vote if your IQ is less than 110. That should stop a few popularist policies aimed at the country’s thicks…

          • Darter Noster

            Ok, so disregarding the fact that IQ tests are a seriously flawed means of identifying intelligence designed by late 19th century eugenicists to help them identify who they should sterilise, once we high IQ people have passed our laws who exactly is going to enforce them?

            Presumably the low IQ people will say “Who’d a thought it? We’re thick. Therefore we must do what the clever folk say.”

          • The Inspector General

            Blessed as this man is to be living in Gloucester, he occasionally passes in the street men who are swigging from a can of ‘Special Brew’ or the like.
            One man one vote ? Get out of here…

          • Darter Noster

            I’d be willing to pit the life experience of special brew man against that of Cameron or Miliband any day of the week.

          • The Inspector General

            Jest not. This man has talked to the Special Brew crowd. A sorry tale they all have to tell through addiction. But they all had the vote, for some reason…

          • Average election turnouts suggest people are not too bothered about voting.

          • Darter Noster

            Scottish election turnout suggests that if you give them a question they actually care about and that they think will actually make a difference to their lives then they will turn out in droves. The reason recent Westminster elections have had such a small turn out is that nobody believes the result will make any difference whatsoever to people’s lives. That is supposed to be the people’s fault, and the solution is that we need state subsidies for political parties to make up for the fact that no one gives a toss about what they are saying.

            Bullshit.

            If the three main political parties cannot survive without state subsidies then they should be allowed to die. Only a blind party politician would believe that without the parties democracy would die. It existed before them; it will exist without them.

          • Representative government by political parties isn’t working here. Do you want government by referendum? Or direct government by way of single issue votes by computer, perhaps? That will lead to a tyranny of the majority who will simply vote according to perceived self-interest.
            Back to Hong Kong. Why is it a Christian concern to have a free choice of the candidates to vote for? Candidates not selected by the Communist State in mainland China? They have a free market economy, universal suffrage and a free press. Christianity isn’t suppressed there. In Britain we are given the list of candidates by the political parties. What’s the difference?

          • SeekTruthFromFacts

            Firstly, because the Basic Law requires it. The clear teaching of the Bible is that human kings are /not/ the highest authority but are subject to God’s law. Christian theologians have gone on to insist that rulers are bound by their own laws too.

            Secondly, because Genesis 2 gives humanity the responsibility to act as stewards over creation, as God’s vice-regents. There is room for specialisation within this (as anyone who has seen my garden knows!) but a society is better and closer to the Lord’s plan when everyone in the society is involved in fulfilling responsibility. It makes everyone more truly human, just as all the saints (not only the patriarchs and apostles) will wear a crown in the age to come.

          • Where does God tell us we must have a ‘one man, one vote’ system of liberal democracy? What law of God is being breached by Hong Long people not being able to freely select the candidates for their CEO?
            subsidiarity

          • Presently we have an elective dictatorship running the show on the basis of secular atheism. Why not have an appointed Christian national government? Jack would trust Queen Elizabeth with this.

            A regime that promotes the common good, according to Christian principles, by balancing interests in society and promoting social justice?

            Yes, it sounds like Fascism. Jack would call it ‘Christian Corporatism’. Terribly undemocratic, he knows. Is it any worse that our present simulacrum of “fredom”?

          • Hmmm ….. have you been reading ‘Rerum Novarum’ and ‘Quadragesimo Anno’?

            “Authentic democracy is possible only in a State ruled by law, and on the basis of a correct conception of the human person.”

            “Democracy succeeds only to the extent that it is based on truth and a correct understanding of the human person. Catholic involvement in political life can not compromise that principle.”

            “The “dictatorship of relativism”, in the end, is nothing less than a threat to genuine human

          • CliveM

            I didn’t fully understand all that but thought I’d up vote anyway!!

          • A Catholic in the making. Jack has advised Opus Dei and they will be in touch.
            *chuckle*

          • CliveM

            I think I had better lock the doors and bar the windows then!

          • Too late ………

          • CliveM

            I’m in hiding and disguise ………

          • Wont help …….. modern satellite tracking via DNA imagery. Its infallible, don’t you know.

          • SeekTruthFromFacts

            Nobody ever expects the Spanish….Opus Dei ………

          • And what you’re overlooking is that democracy takes time and isn’t conducive to all circumstances. It too can descend into tyranny.

            As Jack posted earlier:

            “It must be observed … that if there is no ultimate truth to guide and direct political activity, then ideas and convictions can easily be manipulated for reasons of power. As history demonstrates, a democracy without values easily turns into open or thinly disguised totalitarianism.”
            (Pope Saint John Paul)

    • SeekTruthFromFacts

      The students are only asking the HK government to carry out the Basic Law.

      And the students are not thickos. Do you know that this is the fourth major incident where protesting students have changed the course of Chinese history?

      • The Inspector General

        Changing the course of history is a bit strong, isn’t it ? They haven’t achieved anything yet…

        • SeekTruthFromFacts

          Perhaps not the most apt phrase. This is, to use the Economist cliché, a crossroads. Messrs Xi and Leung have to make a decision. The students have made clear that if the governments do not change course, they have no legitimacy in HK.

  • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

    Hello dear friends! At last, the darkness has lifted and I’m back! Will just try to get my latest portrait up here and will be chatting in a trice!

    • JayBee

      Glad you made it Mrs P. Your genteel contributions have been sorely missed.

      • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

        Ah dear JayBee, thank you for your kind words. I must say it was a struggle as this Disqus malarkey wouldn’t recognise my existence – I mean to say, who hasn’t read Trollope! Now, as for the good people of Hong Kong, their choices are between rendering unto Caesar and having no truck with the devil and his works. They’ve opted for Number 2. I on the other hand would opt for Number 43 with an extra helping of noodles.

    • Uncle Brian

      How nice to hear from you again, Mrs P. We’ve been missing your wit and wisdom. Not to mention your hobnobs!

      Affectionately,
      Brian

      • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

        Dear Uncle Brian, it’s good to be back! One has restrung one’s stays and buffed up one’s girdle with Blanko…ready to take on the world!

    • Yours and Happy Jack’s prayer was answered. So glad you’ve escaped “the Darkness, five miles beyond the Slough of Despond and close to the M25.”
      *chuckle*

      • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

        Indeed dear Happy Jack – now, when your new grandchild pops into the light of day I do hope you will consider baptism at Barchester. I know my Lord the Bishop would be thrilled (and I agree with him) to sprinkle the water, and Mr. Harding could knock up an appropriate anthem.

        • Thank you, my dear Lady. Who could decline such a fine offer. Please ensure Slope absences himself for the day – babies are too easily frightened.

          Jack says you look rather fine in your new portrait. Explorer will be beside himself.

    • The Inspector General

      Good show Mrs Proudie. The country needs you, you know…

      • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

        Ah dear Inspector, the country is in need of many things, not least my wagging finger and freshly baked hobnobs…but thank you for your kind words

    • Hi Mrs prouide

      Glad you’re back, another sensible voice of reason to the congregation…

      • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

        Bless you dear Hannah, I hope you are well.

  • Hi your Grace,

    I think Churchill said that democracy was the worst form of government, except for all the others that have been tried. Having said that, I’m not sure that democracy can always be imposed by internal or external forcible means and there be a satisfying outcome. I used to think that democracy was the universal standard, but now I’m not so sure and perhaps democracy, itself a European western invention, isn’t compatible with all of the different cultures and societies of the world.

  • SeekTruthFromFacts

    Christians have plenty to say about the protests in Hong Kong. That’s why I sat outside the Chinese Embassy in London last week with 3000 others (mainly HK students) to call for real democracy. However, I’m not sure that Archbishop Cranmer is the one to say it, because on the basis of this post he has not understood some basic realities of Chinese life, including Chinese church life.

    Firstly, any British Christian needs to begin his prayer on this topic with confession. Hong Kong exists because the UK fought a number of wars in support of its drug-dealing corporations (some of which are still listed in HK or London!), despite the opposition of evangelicals. The colonial regime was unashamedly racist for the first hundred years. It introduced limited democracy only for the few years of a century and a half. We do not come to this with clean hands.

    Secondly, the second and third paragraphs of the post conflate the situations in Hong Kong and the Mainland. They are very different. Cranmer wrote, “In Hong Kong, anyone may stand for election as long as they accord with China’s socialist precepts and Marxist-Leninist dogma.” This is simply not true. Any permanent resident can stand for the Legislative Council (they don’t even have to be Chinese e.g. Paul Zimmerman was elected to Western District Council when he was still Dutch). In fact, the Communist Party is banned in Hong Kong under colonial legislation that remains in force. Cranmer also wrote, “In the Communist state, disobedience can be a capital offence. The western TV cameras may catch the tear gas and broadcast anger. But we can never know what corrective punishments are being meted out in the police cells.” We can thank God that this is not the case in HK. Joshua Wong is leading the protests on the streets of Admirality tonight because he was freed from prison by a good old writ of Habeas Corpus. Now, it’s a worrying sign that he was put in prison at all, but there are processes in HK to prevent the arbitrary violence which is a daily fact of life on the Mainland. And the cheap shot at Chris Patten is unwarranted – the Basic Law was finished by 1990, so it’s the Blessed Margaret who should take any British blame!

    Thirdly, no discussion of the relationship between Christianity and democracy in China is complete with a discussion of the curious role of Jimmy Lai. Mr Lai is a practising Roman Catholic and gives generously both to democratic causes (he is the major funder of both the democratic political parties and Occupy Central) and the RC church. Specifically, he gave Cardinal Zen huge amounts of cash which was used to support persecuted RCs on the Mainland. Where does all this money come from? A fashion business that used half-naked women to sell jeans made in sweatshops to insecure teenagers, and a newspaper (Apple Daily) that makes the Sunday Sport look wholesome. Someone could easily fill a PhD with the ethical dilemmas he poses! And I’m not saying this to judge, but to point out that the situation is just a whole lot more messy than Adrian suggests.

    Fourthly, I agree with the argument that democracy flows from Christianity. It also seems to me that the weight of lay Christian opinion in HK is with the protestors (I’ve heard protestors singing hymns/praise songs several times in the background of HK radio and on social media). But this probably reflects a nexus of Christian-middle class-democratic-English speaking-pro-Western characteristics that is as much an inheritance of the British Empire as of the gospel of Christ.

    Fifthly,Cranmer wrote that “Without freedom, there are no crosses, Bibles or prayer meetings”. If it was not clear enough from the story of Jesus that God works amongst oppressed peoples, then the story of the Chinese church should make it blindingly obvious. The Holy Spirit gave growth not when Western gunboats ensured legal guarantees for Chinese believers, but when our brothers and sisters carried the cross in the face of poverty and persecution. Power politics is less effective than faithful preaching!

    To finish, I would encourage everyone to reflect on one of the theme songs of Occupy: ‘Do You Hear the People Sing?’ from ‘Les Miserables’.* It’s a vast book, but the central story is about a man who meets God (through that most unlikely of agencies, a diocesan bishop!) and responds to grace in repentance and faith. Yet the backdrop is of people trying to bring a new society by the sword and the gun, rather than by the gospel. It is so easy to pervert the promise of the New Creation into a demand to make a new society now. The HKers should have confidence to forget about swords and to fight with umbrellas and words, knowing that whether they succeed or fail:

    “For the wretched of the earth
    There is a flame that never dies. …
    They will live again in freedom
    In the garden of the Lord.
    They will walk behind the plough-share,
    They will put away the sword.
    The chain will be broken
    And all men will have their reward.
    Will you join in our crusade?
    Who will be strong and stand with me?
    Somewhere beyond the barricade
    Is there a world you long to see?
    Do you hear the people sing?
    Say, do you hear the distant drums?”

    Will you join us the next time we sing this on the streets of London, echoing the distant drums of Hong Kong?

    * Last year, I watched the film version in Kowloon and have spent a lot of time discussing the story with Chinese students. What is happening in HK is very much a dream I dreamed in days gone by.

    • Manfarang

      But who will kill the goose that lays the golden egg?

    • CliveM

      Very informative and interesting.

    • “I agree with the argument that democracy flows from Christianity …”
      Care to elaborate?

      • IanCad

        I don’t buy that either Jack.
        Hope all is well with hatchling and mother.

  • Manfarang

    Chop-suey is American by the way.