For the past several months Hong Kong residents, mostly young people, have been protesting over a desire for more democracy, fair wages, social housing and freedom.
The mass protests were triggered by an extradition bill that would extradite to China suspects where they could face trial under harsh and unfair conditions. For Hong Kongers it was a further sign of the growing influence of China over Hong Kong.
The protests, peaceful at the beginning, have grown in frequency and violence with the police responding with disproportionate use of force. Protesters have now widened and spread their demands for democratic reforms.
Last September, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam withdrew the infamous extradition bill but rejected all other demands. But this was “too late, too little” for the protest movement that has become increasingly outspoken in its demands for full democracy.
One of such demand is universal suffrage whereby the population can elect direclty their own representatives and leaders.
The young are manifesting their dissatisfaction with the government. Young people are struggling with widespread unemployment, high house prices and costly life which rob them of a future.
A world financial hub with one of the highest per capita incomes, Hong Kong has failed to provide social housing for its people, particularly the young who have to continue living with their parents in tiny flats even after marriage.
Hong Kong residents fear for the loss of democracy as they have perceived over the past years the erosion of their freedom and a rise in inequality.
The Church for her part has been calling for dialogue and reconciliation. The face of this posture has been Msgr. Joseph Ha, auxiliary bishop of Hong Kong, who has accompanied and supported young people in these difficult times.
The bishop was among the personalities closest to the youth of the anti-extradition movement, celebrating masses, participating in vigils and moments of solidarity, and calling for a ceasefire.
The Chinese authorities feel more and more challenged by the bold protesters of the semi-autonomous region of China. Analysts weigh up the fallout of a military intervention turning Hong Kong into a second Tiananmen Square massacre.
In this humble and short space, I dare to suggest that the way ahead to peace and stability in the territory lies in the dialogue between the government and protesters in an effort to reach a consensus.