Reflections on Hong Kong

Published on 18 November 2019

I’m an Ordinand for the Diocese of Norwich from the parish of Hellesdon, currently training at Westcott House, Cambridge. When discussing placement options early in 2019 I mentioned my interest in going abroad to another part of the Anglican Communion. From this a placement in Hong Kong, based at Ming Hua Theological College was planned. At this time it was expected my visit would be no different to any other foreign placement. In the following months, however, the political situation in Hong Kong had changed beyond recognition.

My placement had several different elements. One part was based within the theological college living and studying together with their postulants. I have also worshipped in a range of local Anglican churches. On arrival in Hong Kong I was told to stay inside for weekend afternoons and evenings but that it was fine to go out and explore on weekdays. This was initially true but during my time there, daily protests made local travel challenging with blocked roads and public transport difficulties causing lengthy journeys to work and schools being closed. Incidents there can happen quickly; for example I found out that tear gas had been used nearby whilst I was in church one morning. However, protests tend to be concentrated in particular areas and elsewhere life continues and you can forget the city’s difficulties for a while.

As I talked to people, both within the college and in local churches I quickly become aware of a diverse range of opinions about the current situation. This is most evident as to whether people talk about ‘protesters’ or ‘rioters’. Many, particularly in the early weeks of my placement, talked about the importance of maintaining Hong Kong’s freedoms and blamed violence on police brutality. Others, however, have spoken of some churches supporting violent protest and their difficulty reconciling this with Christian faith. It is a society which is becoming increasingly polarised, as neighbours, friends and families hold opposing views. That being said, feelings of anger and anxiety are shared by many.

I have also spent time working for ‘Mission to Migrant Workers’. There are large numbers of migrant workers there, primarily Filipino women who are employed as domestic helpers. Many are not well treated by their employers and some are abused physically, emotionally and financially. It has been a privilege helping some of these women write statements in English about their mistreatment and seeing the practical help and care given to them.

It has been an amazing opportunity to experience a placement in Hong Kong, meeting people and learning about their lives during such a challenging time for the city.

Coryn Stanforth