Guerrillas for God
While Hong Kong’s pastors are not allowed to proselytize, sermonize or establish churches in mainland China without official permission, many defy these prohibitions to cultivate a network of underground “house churches” in homes and workplaces.
Hong Kong has historically served as the springboard for evangelizing on the mainland. But as President Xi Jinping kicks off a renewed crackdown to bring Christianity under state control by instituting new religious regulations, pastors in Hong Kong — since 1997 a semi-autonomous Chinese territory — are finding themselves in the crosshairs.
Christianity has grown too big in the eyes of Beijing, which has historic reason to fear the politicization of religion. Hong Kong, with its greater freedoms and religious liberties, has played a vital role in oxygenating the growth of Christianity on the mainland.
Scholars estimate there are now as many as 80 to 100 million Christians, compared to 89.5 million communist party members. As more and more Chinese seek a spiritual alternative to political repression, Christianity continues to gain ground, increasing by an estimated 10% per year.
For these underground congregations — which are illegal, if often ignored — the Hong Kong Christian establishment offers a vital lifeline, supplying everything from monetary support, to Bibles, to blacklisted Christian literature, to training and assistance founding new churches. The gospel is smuggled over the border in every format imaginable: broadcast on pirate radio waves and disseminated through USB flash drives.
“They need our help because we are in the freer world and they are not,” says Hong Kong’s retired Catholic Cardinal Joseph Zen.
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Reported by Time Magazine's Aria Hangyu Chen / Hong Kong