Christian Perspectives of Civic Action under Non-Democratic Governments Based on Church Discussions in Post-Umbrella Movement Hong Kong
I research how Christians conceptualise civic engagement in light of Hong Kong’s resistance movements. I aim to provide a framework for thinking about the intersection of religious identity and political practice in non-democratic regions, such as Hong Kong.
Research Interests: Theological Ethics, Political Theology, Theological Anthropology, Hong Kong Studies
Image Credit: Ann Gillian Chu
What started on 27 March 2013 as a small-scale movement to Occupy Central with Love and Peace later morphed into the large-scale Umbrella Movement, which lasted from 28 September 2014 to 15 December 2014. This movement paralysed key areas in Hong Kong for over two months by blocking major roadways. In the wake of these movements, individuals and organisations now ponder Hong Kong’s identity and core values. Without an understood and shared theological ethics with which to approach individual political affiliations during and after these movements, the church did not propose a clear position or response to this socio-political situation of pseudo-democracy.
Through a research project on these movements, I plan to articulate a theological ethics that is capable of informing and forming individual Christians and the Christian church, insofar as it shapes thought processes and the civil disobedience of Christians as responsibility rather than antagonism, particularly in the context of the post-Umbrella Movement Hong Kong.
This research is timely and important because the events discussed are significant, but little research has been published on this topic due to its contemporaneity. Debates on this topic, both among scholars and laity, have recently abounded, but are written almost exclusively for lay people. Although some scholars have approached the issue through analytical approaches using biblical hermeneutics and theological angles, these approaches have not integrated an ethnographic approach, as this research project hopes to do. (My fieldwork research ended earlier than expected due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and changes had to be made to adapt to the circumstances. You can read about this unique experience in the University of St Andrews Alumni Updates post.)
Moreover, little has been written in the Anglophone world to reflect upon these movements, which is why an academic study of the situation in English by a Hong Kong scholar such as myself would be a significant step towards bringing the knowledge and experience gained from these movements by Chinese Christians in Hong Kong to the wider English-speaking academy. As I grew up in Hong Kong and was primarily educated in the Western world, I offer an unique perspective on this issue and an ability to speak effectively to both worlds. In addition, my study contributes to Christian political theology in a context of Hong Kong’s soft authoritarianism, because most political theologies assume a Western democratic context, which is not exactly what Hong Kong was, is, or ever will be.
You can read more about my motivations to study Hong Kong Christians’ attitude towards protests and my struggles in the PhD journey in an interview I gave with The Centre for Religion and Public Life at the University of Leeds.