Hong Kong’s Catholics leader has called for a Christmas truce after long-time violent social unrest which threatened to continue into the festive period, advocating a time of cooling-off and reflection.
Last Saturday, the archbishop of Hong Kong’s Anglican Church, Most Reverend Paul Kwong, also urged the government and protesters to take the holiday as an opportunity to “start a dialogue with courage, sincerity and humility, and to admit their own inadequacies and shortcomings”.
The plea for peace came as legal scholars at a top local university suggested granting amnesty to alleged offenders on both sides of the divide – including protesters, their opponents and the police.
Social media notices indicate that an event called “Suck the Christmas” is in the works for Wednesday, Christmas Day where protests are expected in different districts of the former British colony.
The targets of the protests include five shopping malls that figure to be full of last-minute Christmas Eve shoppers. A “countdown rally” near the city’s harbor front in the bustling Tsim Sha Tsui shopping district is also planned.
In a Christmas message issued on Monday, Cardinal John Tong Hon, apostolic administrator of Hong Kong, described the recent unrest as “socio-political turmoil”, and appealed to all city residents to refrain from violence during the holidays.
“As we approach Christmas, we earnestly appeal to all people to stop acts of violence. Let us have a cooling-off period for an in-depth reflection on our social turmoil and find a way to resolve the current impasse in a humane manner, restoring peace with healing of body, mind and spirit,” the message read.
The original cause of the protests was over an extradition bill pushed by the government that some Hong Kongers viewed as Chinese meddling to take away freedoms promised to the former British colony when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam formally withdrew the bill in early September but by then several more demands were added to the protester’s list.
The newer demands included an independent investigation into allegations of excessive force by the police, the release of all arrested demonstrators, universal suffrage and full democracy. Another cause was on display Sunday morning when 1,000 people staged a rally to support the Uighur Muslims plight in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region.