China in Hong Kong: Why ‘the First Freedom’ Will Be the First to Disappear

December 31, 2019

In an article published today in the National Catholic Register, Thomas Farr, president of the Religious Freedom Institute (RFI), argues, “The Beijing government, long a source of religious persecution within the Chinese mainland, is now posing a grave threat to religious freedom in Hong Kong, long a beacon of greater democracy in Asia.”

Farr outlines Hong Kong’s recent history, including its return to China from the British in 1997 under an agreement that sets forth a high degree of autonomy for Hong Kong through 2047. Since that agreement took effect, Farr notes, Hong Kong has become “a functioning quasi-democracy, and a global commercial powerhouse.” He also points to Hong Kong’s Basic Law, which “provides civil rights, including considerable religious freedom, that are utterly absent on the mainland.”

Widespread protests began in Hong Kong last spring when Chief Executive Carrie Lam proposed legislation that would have permitted the extradition of Hong Kong citizens to mainland China where they would be placed in legal proceedings in which they would forfeit the civil rights they enjoy in Hong Kong. That legislation ultimately failed, but the protests have persisted, moving beyond that bill to broader concerns.

If Beijing continues to escalate its intervention in Hong Kong, to include the deployment of Chinese troops onto the island, “religious liberty…will necessarily be a casualty.” Farr continues:

This fundamental right, properly belonging to every human being, is a permanent rebuke to tyranny, which is why America’s founders put religious freedom first among our constitutional freedoms. When citizens are faithful to an authority greater than the state, the very existence of religion in public life acts as a limit on government. So too do the actions of religious communities providing public services — charities, schools, hospitals — that otherwise government would have to provide.

The Chinese communists, like all totalitarians, understand instinctively the threat of religion to their power.

Read the full article: China in Hong Kong: Why ‘the First Freedom’ Will Be the First to Disappear.