Calvin students watch situation in Hong Kong

Three of the main leaders of the Umbrella Revolution are Christians living in Hong Kong: Joshua Wong, a Christian high school student; Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, former Catholic bishop of Hong Kong; and Reverend Chu Yiu-ming, a Baptist minister who helped found the Occupy Central movement. Wong, 17, mobilized around 1,200 high school students at the start of the protests and was arrested last Friday.

The movement is drawing uneasy parallels to Tiananmen Square, which happened 25 years ago. The Tiananmen Square incident began as a student protest that turned into tragedy. Occupy Central began as a student-led movement, and Hong Kong residents do not want history to repeat itself. From the start, Hong Kongers have been very intentional about the protests being nonviolent. The only protection protesters have brought: raincoats, goggles and, of course, the now-famous umbrellas. James Li, a Calvin junior, was especially moved by the purposeful non-violence of the protests and said that the they are “an example of civil disobedience and overcoming violence and oppression.”

Hong Kong was British colony until 1997 when Great Britain returned Hong Kong to China. Since then, there has been a history of unrest and dissatisfaction toward the Chinese government. Contributing to that dissatisfaction are rising prices of goods and housing, indoctrination in public schools and an ever-tightening leash of the Chinese government on Hong Kong politics. The Chinese government had promised the people of Hong Kong that they would be able to democratically elect their own leader in 2017. Recently, however, the government announced that only candidates approved by Beijing would be allowed to run.

Senior Eleanore Chan said that, during this time, her first thoughts are to the safety of people she cares about. Chan has family who lives in Hong Kong and friends who are protesting. She also raised the question of whether “the sentiments of the protestors echo the thoughts and values of the rest of the Hong Kong people.”

Calvin graduate Connor Schmidt, class of 2014, is currently teaching kindergarten in Hong Kong and is an active protester. He described a scene from the protests Sunday:

“They need help. Umbrellas are being passed forward, popped out and pointing away from you. Creating a wall before us — I’m getting a sense of what I need to do. Protect Hong Kong … We pressed forward. This time mace in my eyes. I understand the pain now … my arms are blood red like a third degree sunburn and feel like they are on fire.”

The Occupy Central movement’s outcome could shape the relationship between Hong Kong and China for years to come. Sophomore Ben Jordan encourages Calvin students to support the protestors in their bid for religious freedom:

“We need international pressure to hold the Chinese government accountable,” said Jordan. “Not to mention, if Hong Kong’s occupy movement success, that would bring hope to China’s democratic process. Currently, there are many Christians that get persecuted in China because of the faith choice. We need to help brothers and sisters all over the world by supporting religious freedom.”