Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam June 18, 2019, reissued an apology to the Chinese territory's people for the conflict over an extradition law amendment that has provoked mass demonstrations. Cardinal John Tong Hon, apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Hong Kong, called on Lam to withdraw the bill. CNS photo/Tyrone Siu, Reuters

Cardinal joins fight against divisive bill

  • June 19, 2019

HONG KONG -- Cardinal John Tong Hon has joined with activists and religious leaders calling for the withdrawal of Hong Kong’s controversial extradition bill.

Updated 2019-06-27:
Changed headline and made other minor changes to story.

In a June 19 statement, Tong and Rev. Eric So Shing-yit, who leads a council that includes 21 churches, also called for “a thorough independent inquiry” into clashes between police and protesters opposed to the bill.

The two religious leaders said they accepted a June 18 public apology by chief executive Carrie Lam for the conflict over the extradition bill that has provoked mass demonstrations.

Tong, the apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Hong Kong and chairman of the Hong Kong Christian Council,   told Vatican Radio in Rome that protests should not include violence.

“If the people are using violence,” he said, it “should be condemned.”

He supported calls for stability and good order and, along with a six-member inter-religious group representing Hong Kong’s main religions, appealed to the government to meet with protesters and, through dialogue, “try to reach a consensus.” 

Lam announced June 15 she had suspended the bill that would allow mainland China extradition rights over any Hong Kong resident, including foreign nationals and tourists, ucanews.com reported.

However, Hong Kong residents, demanding the bill be completely quashed, not just suspended, turned out in even greater numbers June 16 than the one million estimated to have marched on June 9, reported ucanews.com.

In re-issuing her apology, Lam told reporters that she accepted much of the responsibility for the “deficiencies in the work of the SAR government over the amendment exercise.”

“This has led to controversies, disputes and anxieties in society. For this I offer my most sincere apology to all people of Hong Kong,” Lam said.

However, Lam did not agree to protesters’ demands to withdraw the extradition bill, retract the characterization of the June 12 protest as a “riot,” seek responsibility from the police over instances of brutality, drop charges against protesters and resign as the city’s leader.

As Lam’s media conference was about to start, the Colloquium of Six Religious Leaders of Hong Kong, which comprises representatives of the Catholic Church, Protestant churches, Buddhism, Taoism, Islam and Confucianism, released a statement to ask Hong Kong people to accept her apology. Tong leads the colloquium.

The religious leaders’ statement said Lam had met the religious leaders June 17 and agreed to listen to criticisms in the future. The colloquium also called on people to return to their daily routines to end the conflict and asked the government to use leniency in meting out punishment to arrested protesters.

Biddy Kwok, president of the Justice and Peace Commission of Hong Kong, believes that only Lam’s resignation can solve the conflict.

“Although she apologized, she did not admit she did wrong and refused to make a correction to withdraw the bill. She only said she will do better in the next three years during her term,” Kwok told ucanews.com.

John Mok Chit-wei, a young Catholic, did not accept Lam’s apology.

“She totally ignored the demands of the protesters, such as the complete withdrawal of the bill and to stop charging protesters with rioting,” he told ucanews.com “She also strongly defended the police’s use of excessive force. How can Hong Kongers accept such an apology?”

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