No Exit: Law and Religion in Hong Kong's Movement for Universal Suffrage

Monday, 11 July 2016: 15:03
Location: Hörsaal 34 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Robert ROSEN, University of Miami, USA
During Occupy Central and the Umbrella Movements in Hong Kong, Christian shrines, prayers, bible readings and hospitality were salient.  In contrast, Confucian, Taoist and Buddhist manifestations were very muted.  In multiple ways, Christian rectitude was presented, as against Confucian compromise.  The religion of the old colonizer was deployed against the new colonizer (China). Xi Jinping's habit of quoting Confucius was mocked and the moral lessons of Confucius and Mencius were cast as tools of the colonizer.  Manipulations of secular laws (even if allowed under the Basic Charter) were tested by Christian religious truths.  Human rights were not Western ideals, but the beliefs of more than the 11% of Hong Kongers who profess Christian faith.  The downside of this use of religion in the public sphere is that it led to there being  no exit from the confrontation.  Compromise was impossible.  The attempts by Hong Kong officials to find a compromise were rebuffed by the Christian rectitude of many of the movements leaders.  Some might say that the occupiers were defeated, as the occupations fizzled, after injunctions against them were obtained.  Others might say that the Christian commitment to non-violence was upheld because the injunctions allowed the police to be "legally" violent.  And others might conclude that the important thing is not the victory, but that the occupiers were unsullied, able to return in the future as they remained religiously pure.  Hong Kong's movement for universal suffrage exemplifies the roles religion can play in undergirding social movements for self-fulfillment and human security. Weber would not be surprised that conversions to Christianity are becoming common among Hong Kong young financiers.  They use their Christian identity as a coin to show that they are ethical and can be trusted. So too, do many in these movements for universal suffrage.