By Devin Watkins
Massive protests turned violent in Hong Kong this week, when demonstrators tried to storm government buildings to block debate on a controversial law that would allow extradition to mainland China.
Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters on Wednesday. Seventy-two people were injured, including 21 police officers.
Cardinal John Tong Hon, Apostolic Administrator of Hong Kong, told Vatican Radio on Thursday that acts of violence should not be part of civil action.
“If the people are using violence,” he noted, these acts “should be condemned.”
The Cardinal is in Rome this week accompanying an interreligious group on a visit to the Vatican.
He said the leaders of 6 religions had discussed the situation and agreed on a three-pronged appeal.
Appeal for mutual respect
First, they call for respect for individual freedoms. “If [protesters] go out to express their opinions, they should be respected,” said Cardinal Tong.
Second, Hong Kong’s religious leaders distance themselves from the violence that has erupted in the city.
Cardinal Tong said it was his personal opinion that violence should be condemned. But the interreligious group, he said, agreed on the need to oppose violent attitudes, including “hurting other people, the use of violence, and throwing stones against the police.”
The Cardinal asked the people of Hong Kong “to try to maintain stability and the order of society”.
Third, the interreligious group – representing Catholic, Protestant Christian, Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, and Islam – ask Hong Kong’s government and the protesters to sit down together to talk about the issue “so that through the dialogue we try to reach a consensus”.
Stability and peace
The goal, said Cardinal Tong, is to help Hong Kong “to be stable” and for the people “to enjoy peace and tranquility.”
Cardinal Tong ended with a plea for all Catholics to pray for the situation in Hong Kong.