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HONG KONG (ChurchMilitant.com) - Hundreds of Hong Kong Catholics gathered to pray the Rosary last weekend as pro-democracy protests continue.
In an Oct. 26 prayer service, Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing emphasized the importance of non-violence.
"Our reciting the rosary represents our non-violent resistance," Bp. Ha told the prayer gathering in Chater Garden in central Hong Kong.
Large-scale protests in Hong Kong began in June over an extradition bill which called for accused criminals to be shipped to mainland China to face trial.
The bishop, a Franciscan, said the people of Hong Kong should treat even their opponents in the struggle with human dignity. He declared, "No one is a 'cockroach,' No one is a 'dog,' and no one is a 'yellow object' either. We're all the sons and daughters of God. We are all brothers and sisters."
The specific terms he mentioned are insults that pro-democracy and pro-government forces have used against each other amid the months of political turmoil.
Bishop Ha opined that government leaders must take responsibility for defusing the volatile situation in Hong Kong.
"The one who has public power should bear more responsibilities," he remarked.
An 18-year-old attending the prayer service told UCA News, "Sometimes we feel hopeless and don't know what to do; but as a Christian we can pray."
Lina Chan, executive secretary of the Hong Kong diocese's Justice and Peace Commission, explained that the prayer meeting was part of efforts to encourage daily recitation of the Rosary during the month of October.
She also commented, "We want the public to know that the Church cares about the current situation."
Five days after the public prayer event, protesters turned out again on Thursday. Many wore masks and even Halloween costumes, in defiance of a government decree banning face coverings.
According to official data released Thursday, Hong Kong's economy has entered a recession, with many blaming the months of protests. The demonstrations and clashes with polices cause shops to shutter and hurt the tourism business.
When Hong Kong went from British to Chinese rule in 1997, a "one country, two systems" policy was established, giving Hongkongers liberties lacking in mainland China under the communist regime.
Protesters complain that the communist government in Beijing is now tightening its grip in Hong Kong and threatening citizens' freedom there.
Along with the extradition bill, pro-democracy activists have also voiced concern about Hong Kong's authorities' ability to conduct surveillance on citizens. Many protesters wear masks or hold umbrellas over their heads due to worries about the government's security cameras that monitor the streets.
There are even suspicions that the Hong Kong government might be sharing surveillance information with Beijing — a claim which the government firmly denies.
To further protect their identity, many of those involved in the protest movement use Virtual Private Networks to access the internet, and communicate using encrypted apps or anonymous messaging sites.
The pro-democracy protest movement is decentralized, leaderless and unorganized, which makes it hard for the government to crack down.