Victor was one of the few missionaries who stayed in Hong Kong after the British handover to China in 1997. Since then, Victor (who asked that his real name not be used) has steadily built up Christian contacts in China. He now visits the mainland regularly to teach in unregistered churches.

Victor recently met a Christian leader from an Asian country who offered to send him compelling evidence of religious persecution in that leader's country. "I handed him my card," Victor said. "Looking at it, his expression changed. 'Oh, I can't send you this information. Hong Kong is in China.' "

Although Victor was shocked by the response, such fears may soon be justified. Yet in the five years since the handover, Hong Kong Christians have few complaints about political or religious freedom.

Christians in Hong Kong constitute about 10 percent of the territory's 6.9 million people. They operate more than 500 schools and 60 percent of the social organizations. They also run 25 percent of Hong Kong's hospitals.

Daily threat?


Religious leaders are warning that human rights and religious freedom now hang in the balance. New enabling legislation, based on Article 23 of Hong Kong's Basic Law, could sharply curtail religious liberties in Hong Kong. Bishop Zen, leader of the Catholic Church in Hong Kong, said the legislation is "very dangerous" and "full of hidden traps."

Under Article 23 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong has been required to outlaw subversion, sedition, and other crimes against the state. Article 23 has never been implemented with specific prohibitions or penalties.

In the 1984 Sino-British Declaration, China promised to keep Hong Kong's freedoms untouched for 50 years after the handover.

"I see this as a daily life threat," said Rose Wu, ...

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