Time magazine readers chose the Hong Kong protesters as the people’s choice for 2019 Persons of the Year. The poll is vivid support for the pro-democracy cries of the 2 million Hong Kong protesters. What many don’t realize is that religion is a significant factor in the current conflict.

The Beijing government, long a source of religious persecution within the Chinese mainland, is now posing a grave threat to religious freedom in Hong Kong, long a beacon of greater democracy in Asia. China’s attack on civil rights there has led to massive protests that are unlikely to stop. At their peak the demonstrators’ numbers have reached, by some accounts, two million of Hong Kong’s 7 million inhabitants.

Given this challenge to its ultimate authority, the Chinese government’s long game is not yet clear. A decision by President Xi Jinping to move troops into Hong Kong would likely trigger an international crisis and substantial problems for China. But Xi’s aggressive domestic and foreign policy trajectory, combined with Hong Kong’s rebuke, suggests that such a decision is by no means out of the question.

Should China move into Hong Kong, one of the first freedoms to be eliminated will be religious freedom. Indeed, religious freedom’s very existence poses a threat to Chinese power.

Read more at National Catholic Register 

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