How Smashed Jesus Shrine Reveals Christian Undercurrent to Hong Kong Protests

by Shai Oster  |  published on October 30, 2014

When police cleared barricades in Hong Kong’s Mong Kok neighborhood this month, they knocked down a makeshift chapel and shattered a statue of Jesus Christ. A day later, activists rebuilt the shrine, adding for good measure a cross in front of government headquarters.

The episode shows the unusually central role Christianity is playing in the protests over how the city’s chief executive will be elected, even as the faith is curtailed in China. Many protest leaders are Christians and they cite freedom of religion as one reason they’re leery of greater Communist Party control over the city.

That the faith has thrived in Hong Kong since China regained sovereignty from the British in 1997 serves as a reminder that party’s power is limited. While the city government took steps to promote other faiths after the handover, Christianity has grown stronger by some measures and expanded its footprint across the border on the mainland.