Good Catholics and ‘Occupy Central’
As more and more people have come to realize the absurdity of the so-called “Occupy Central” movement, and the harm it would cause to Hong Kong, various groups emerged to rally against it in the last month or so. Most of them are amateurish, including the numerous Facebook pages. While they showcase the increasing popularity of anti-“Occupy” sentiments, a lack of expertise and resources constrains their ability to reach a broader audience and capture the limelight. In this regard, the scholarcum-professional-led Silent Majority for Hong Kong is a promising vehicle to converge and coordinate anti-“Occupy” efforts.
Donations are coming in. Educated people are joining our side. These are very good signs, but we still do not have an effective discourse to guide our allies in public debates.
Futile arguments are now being thrown upon the occupiers, but they won’t leave even a scratch. Most of these arguments try to expose the occupiers’ double standards and inconsistencies, or prove that the proposed campaign could not achieve its manifested aims. However, apparent double standards and inconsistencies at one level are, in fact, reconcilable at a higher level. If occupiers believe they are fighting against evil, it does not matter whether they ultimately prevail or not. The difference between a believer and a bean counter is that the former does not weigh profits and loss all day. Gandhi never tried to occupy India’s equivalent of Central, of course, but that does not mean that Gandhi’s principles would have prevented him from doing that if the situation required.
We have to go beyond the surface of the bits and pieces of our opponents’ argument to win the debate. We have to realize that we are dealing with something more profound and fundamental, for example, the relationship between the central government and Hong Kong and religion.
Democracy is an important ingredient in the debate, but it is more often than not used to sidestep and mask the real issue, which is the relationship between the central government and the SAR government. Prof Ho Lok-sang recently proposed a system for universal suffrage where each eligible voter has two votes. He or she can cast both votes for one candidate, or two different candidates. His innovation is that the votes can be used to signal approval or disapproval: all approval votes and disapproval votes a candidate receives cancel out. It is interesting, but quite beside the point as to who is the ultimate boss.
On the other hand, the religious front was surrendered long ago even before the battle is fought. The “Occupy” movement is from day one a very Catholic campaign, with Benny Tai Yiu-ting and a few church leaders now being sole interpreters of what Catholicism has to say on issues such as civil disobedience and democracy. With the entire devoted Christian community in Hong Kong at stake, this is an area where real scholarship is needed.
Numerous essays exist online discussing whether civil disobedience is “biblical”. The majority suggest that it is not, or at least, questionable. Guess what, they are all written by Americans.
A much cited example is the teaching of the apostle Paul. It was during the reign of Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, who tortured Christians and engaged in a variety of illicit acts, that Paul wrote his epistle to the Romans. While one might expect him to encourage the Christians in Rome to rise up against their oppressive ruler, we find these words instead: “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil” (Romans 13:1–7).
Even under the reign of a ruthless and godless emperor, Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, told his readers to be in subjection to the government. Why shouldn’t we be more content with ours?
Good Christians believe that disobedience to authority is permitted when the government’s laws or commands are in direct violation of those from God. In Exodus 1, the Egyptian Pharaoh gave the clear command to two Hebrew midwives that they were to kill all male Jewish babies. The midwives “feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them, but let the boys live” (Exodus 1:17). But this is about disobeying direct orders, not actively seeking to change the rules.
So is the current political system in Hong Kong a direct violation of God’s laws and commands? The truth is, the bible has no direct mention of democracy. What we only know is that Paul once asked a run-away slave to return to his master.