Escalating Hong Kong tensions prod Catholic call for peace

By Elise Harris

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A demonstrator holds a sign as thousands pack the streets of Hong Kong in protest Oct. 1, 2014. Credit: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images News-Getty Images.

The archbishop of Hong Kong has urged a peaceful solution to current pro-democracy protests happening there, encouraging both sides to refrain from violence in getting their point across.

“With reference to the regrettable events at Central, Admiralty and Wanchai over the past few days, may I sincerely call upon the Hong Kong SAR Government to put the personal safety of fellow citizens as her prime concern,” Cardinal John Tong, bishop of Hong Kong said in a Sept. 29 statement.

He pleaded with the government to exercise “restraint in deployment of force with a view to listening to the voice of the younger generation and of citizens from all walks of life.”

The cardinal also spoke to the protesters themselves, saying “It is also my sincere wish that all those who are trying to voice out their grievances will be persistent in keeping calm. Where there is a will, there is a way.”

Cardinal Tong’s statement came after the initial police response to rallies held over the weekend that injured 40 people, CNN reports, during which police used tear gas on students and other protestors before making numerous arrests.

Entering their fifth day, the protests are being organized by students as well as pro-democracy group Occupy Central in response to limits Chinese leadership has placed on who can run for the position of chief executive, Hong Kong's top leader, in 2017, BBC News reports.

According to the agency, protestors say that this act, making it nearly impossible for any candidate not approved of by the Chinese government to run for the election, denies Beijing’s previous guarantee of Hong Kong’s right to democracy.

In addition to denouncing the new limits placed on eligible candidates for the 2017 elections, protestors are calling for the resignation of Hong Kong’s Chief Executive CY Leung.

As the deadline set for Mr. Leung’s resignation has drawn closer, student activists have made threats to surround and occupy government buildings, which Chinese officials have denounced as “illegal.”

“As Christians, we believe that with God as its Creator, our world can always offer us hope,” Cardinal Tong said in his statement.

“Accordingly, I would like to ask all Christians to continue praying for the reconciliation of the conflicting parties in Hong Kong, and for the peace and well-being of our community.”

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