Hong Kong Church 1997

A Reaffirmation of the Role of the Hong Kong Church:
A Position Paper of the 1991 Hong Kong Church Delegation to China

 

Introduction

On 19 December 1984, the Chinese and British governments signed a Joint Declaration concerning the future of Hong Kong. In that Declaration, the British government agreed that from 1 July 1997, the sovereignty of Hong Kong would revert to China, and the Chinese government promised that China’s promised that China’s position vis-a-vis Hong Kong would be to maintain a "one country, two systems" policy, to grant Hong Kong a "fully autonomous government" and to "let Hong Kong be governed by Hong Kong people".

The Joint Declaration was widely supported by the people of Hong Kong. The people prepared for 1997 and tried hard to implement the content of the Joint Declaration.

During the past seven years of transition time, relations between Hong Kong and China have been getting closer by the day, the channels for exchange have multiplied. After four years of hard work, the Basic Law of Hong Kong was promulgated on 4 April 1990. A Reconciliation Paper on the New Airport was also signed in April, 1990. All these documents have played an important role in the maintenance of the stability about which the people of Hong Kong and the people of China have held different points of view. The relationship between Hong Kong and China has also had to weather many problems which has led to a deterioration of confidence in the future of Hong Kong, and to an erosion of trust in the Chinese government. This has certainly not been beneficial for the future of Hong Kong.

During this transitional period, Christians in Hong Kong wish to be faithful to our calling to carry out our work of mission and evangelism, which includes devoting ourselves to work together with the people of Hong Kong for the continuous prosperity of this city, for the happiness of its people, for an improved relationship between China and Hong Kong for the modernization of China and for the happiness of the Chinese people.

Therefore, we have accepted the invitation of the Bureau of Religious Affairs of the State Department of the People’s Republic of China to visit China on 16 November 1991, to exchange ideas with the Chinese authorities. We hope this visit will be based on the foundation which was built during the September 1984 visit of a Christian delegation from Hong Kong. We anticipate that this visit will further contribute to a better understanding between the Chinese government and the Christians in Hong Kong.

Our perspective on Hong Kong

Christians in Hong Kong, through our work of mission and service, while abiding by the laws of Hong Kong, have upheld the rights of individuals and have sided with the people of Hong Kong in expressing our concern and working together to solve the common problems we face.

We have expressed our basic thinking in regard to developments before and after 1997 in the document, "A Position Paper of the 1984 Hong Kong Christian Delegation". During the past seven years, we have witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of Hong Kong people immigrating to other countries. The loss of educators and other professionals is becoming more serious by the day. In addition, inflation continues to climb, the Vietnamese refugee problem is still unsolved and violent crime continues to rise at a rate that has the people of Hong Kong worrying about the safety of our city. The thriving smuggling racket will not be stopped through the efforts of the Hong Kong police alone, but also needs the cooperation of Chinese authorities. All these issues, if not resolved in due time, will be harmful to the stability and prosperity of Hong Kong.

Despite these disadvantages, the people of Hong Kong are still striving hard to develop themselves. Civic education is being promoted by various educational and social service organizations, while the protection of the environment has gained wide support from the public. Since 1989, the people of Hong Kong has also become more concerned about the issue of human rights, the role of law in government and the development of a more democratic political system. Last September, the first direct elections for the Legislative Council were held in Hong Kong. This proved that the people of Hong Kong, though still under colonial rule, are gradually learning to exercise their political rights. This is a huge step towards realizing the post-1997 goals set out in the Joint Declaration, namely of developing a "high level of self- government", and of enabling "Hong Kong to be governed by Hong Kong people". The people of Hong Kong need to continue to work to increase the number of registered voters participating in elections, to encourage the development of political parties and to monitor the work of elected Legislative Counselors.

Hong Kong’s Christians and Hong Kong’s people are bound by a common cause and will go through thick and thin together. We will shoulder the responsibilities of building a better Hong Kong together, and are willing to utilize our resources to promote different activities to strengthen our love for, such as the 1991 "We Love Hong Kong Campaign". The aim of this campaign was to help the people of Hong Kong overcome problems during the transition period, so as to make the 1997 reversion process smoother. The overall objective is to help Hong Kong become an international city of China where there is prosperity, stability, democracy and freedom.

Our views on the church in Hong Kong

In 1984, the Christian church in Hong Kong expressed its views concerning 1997 through three important documents:

  1. The Conviction Held by Christians in the Midst of Contemporary Social and Political Change.

  2. A Manifesto of the Protestant Church in Hong Kong on Religious Freedom.

  3. The 1984 Christian Delegation to China Position Paper on the Future of Hong Kong.

Among other things, these documents state that this transition period, the church in Hong Kong will continue to build up new churches among, provide social services for and offer educational opportunities to the people of Hong Kong. This, they say, is a holistic model of the church in mission, a task that was entrusted to the church by its Lord.

During the last seven years, Hong Kong’s people have had to deal with many hardships. Many of them have become pessimistic. They feel like the future will bring the end of the world as they have known it. Many of them are undergoing a crisis of confidence. The church, however, has responded more positively. It has continued to expand its work. For example, its theological seminaries have increased their recruitment efforts, and the publication of Christian literature has also been greatly increased. At the same time, para-church agencies, congregations, mission stations, schools and social service centers have also been expanding. Some of the old and historic church buildings and hospitals are being redeveloped. The church’s schools and social service centers are always the first service units to appear in new towns and other newly developed areas. New local churches are being established in these schools and centers. In the rapidly changing world of communications, Hong Kong’s Christians are also actively participating in radio and television broadcasting.

The church also regularly holds large scale public evangelistic, training, worship activities in large public venues like the Hong Kong Football Stadium and the Hong Kong Coliseum. The church also maintains a close relationship with church bodies all over the world - sharing resources with people who are in need in different countries, sending missionaries overseas and inviting missionaries from abroad to work with it. International church conferences are regularly held to forge better ecumenical relations with churches around the world.

The church in Hong Kong is, as a whole, responding to the challenge of 1997 in order to bring hope and confidence to the people of Hong Kong. It would, of course, like to see as many Hong Kong people as possible accept the gospel and become Christians.

No matter how turbulent the situation becomes, and not matter what will happen in the months and years to come, the church will still cherish its freedom to serve the people of Hong Kong and to shoulder its responsibility for Hong Kong. It stands deeply rooted in Hong Kong as a witness to the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Our perspective on China

From 1st July 1997, Hong Kong will become a Special Administrative Region of China. All Chinese in Hong Kong will automatically become "Chinese citizens". This change of legal status is based on a very important foundation, that is, the people of Hong Kong have always cherished their Chinese identity. Their relationship with their compatriots in China is thicker than blood. They share the same expectations concerning their role in the development of China.

Over the last one hundred years, the patriotic sentiment of the people of Hong Kong towards China has beyond any doubt. In more recent days, it has also been demonstrated through their actions concerning the relief effort mounted to help the flood victims in Eastern China.

Hong Kong’s people recognize that China, in her drive towards modernization, has to still overcome many difficulties. They also understand that China’s development will not be accomplished overnight.

China will constantly be concerned about her development. They will be eager to see how they can devote themselves to the development of China in all aspects of her life, hoping that China will establish an image in the international community of being an open and friendly nation. They will want to see gradual and stable developments in the areas of respect for human rights, the development of a democratic system, the evolution of an independent legal system and the correct and concrete implementation of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China. They will also want to see fair Constitutional treatment given to people who use nonviolent means to struggle for democracy. They will hope for great success in the area of economic reform that will enable China to remain open to the outside world and that will enhance the people’s livelihood and improve the quality of their life.

The church in Hong Kong is also greatly concerned about the situation of the church and Christians in China. It is hoped that the 1979 policy of more freedom and openness for religious activities can be equally implemented and developed in all provinces and cities of China. As for the relationship between the Hong Kong and China churches, we hope that our churches and Christians can have more opportunities for exchange visits, for dialogue and for mutual cooperation based on the non-subordination, non-interference and mutual respect principles.

We hope that in all of the areas mentioned above, the Chinese government will render assistance when it is needed.

Conclusion

As Hong Kong Christians, we reaffirm our loyalty to God and our commitment to Hong Kong society and to the church. We recognize that we are Chinese, that we love our nation and her people and that we are willing to work with our brothers and sisters and share weal and woe. We are earnestly concerned for the lives of our 1.2 billion compatriots and for positive development of the whole of China.

The nineties is a decisive decade for the world, for China and for Hong Kong as well. We believe that through our prayers and through our participation in the development of Hong Kong, our efforts will also aid in the positive development of China as a whole. The promotion of understanding and exchange between Hong Kong and China will surely reduce doubt and misunderstanding on both sides and will be most beneficial to future development of both China and Hong Kong. We sincerely hope that this visit will contribute to the accomplishment of that goal.


[This paper was presented at the 24th CCA-URM Committee Meeting, February 1993, Hong Kong.]