The two factions also differ in the way they view social activism and participate in social movements. Liberal Christians have been visible in campaigns against capitalism and for universal suffrage and even gay rights.
But while evangelical churches rarely speak out on socio-political issues, they appear to be expanding their political influence. This has prompted some observers to speculate about the rise of the conservative religious right in Hong Kong. In 2007, an event with American evangelical preacher Franklin Graham was adopted as part of the government’s handover anniversary celebrations. Among the attendees were then Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen and several mainland government officials.
The Rev. Daniel Ng of Kong Fok Church’s says society has alienated and marginalised religion, and there is a perception that the religious should not voice their opinions publically. “When people have already spoken on issues that we agree with, we don’t need to add to [the discussion],” he says. “But when our views on moral issues are not expressed, then we, the silent majority, need to speak out.”
The liberal churches, on the other hand, speak out on a variety of socio-political issues and are active in different social movements. Narrow Church, a relatively new and liberal church established in 2010, participates in social movements using their church’s name.
“The church has room to jump out of the box of individual participation in social movements,” David Cheung, minister of Narrow Church says.
Cheung believes Christians have a duty to link their faith to their daily life. According to his reasoning, for Christians living in Hong Kong at this time, this means taking drastic action because society has already reached a “tipping point” and a breakthrough is needed.
“We used to achieve justice through law. But to a corrupt regime, expressing opinion through moderate means doesn’t work. Now is the time to achieve justice through breaking the law,” he says.
But some are worried about what happens when churches participate in social movements. Professor Kung Lap-yan of the Divinity School of Chung Chi College at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, says: “The question is in what manner and with what attitudes do Christians participate in society. Are they dominating society with Christian beliefs? Are they striving for human rights or Christian values?”
The blurring of church and state is troubling for Kung because he believes politics is based on compromise. “Churches should be at a critical distance from the establishment and criticise the establishment in a detached manner,” he says.