Since Wong Siu-yung opened a church for Hong Kong Christians in Taiwan final yr, it attracted greater than three dozen attendees. However in that point the one Cantonese-speaking church on the island has confronted vital turnover.
A number of congregants returned to their earlier residence. However a lot of the 10 who departed moved to the UK.
“I watched all of them hand over and depart Taiwan,” Wong mentioned. “Relocating for the second time in such a brief time period may be very troublesome.”
This week, Wong himself joined the exodus. The 48-year-old pastor boarded a flight Thursday to Nottingham, England, hopeful about making a brand new house greater than 6,000 miles away. This wasn’t a journey Wong had anticipated when he left Hong Kong for Taiwan in July 2020. On the time, his involvement within the 2019 pro-democracy protests had made him a possible authorities goal, so he determined to go away his homeland instantly.
Taiwan initially promised to supply “settlement and care” to hundreds of Hong Kongers like Wong. However within the months since, the federal government has made it more and more troublesome for Hong Kongers to achieve everlasting residency, stopping many from working and deciding on the island. Authorities officers worry that permitting Hong Kongers to resettle in Taiwan may provoke China and open the door to Chinese language Communist Occasion (CCP) infiltrators.
Wong and his congregation have confronted roadblock after roadblock: After promoting their houses in Hong Kong, quitting their jobs, and pulling their youngsters out of college, they arrived in Taiwan to search out the necessities to achieve residency modified and their instances caught in limbo. “Hong Kongers have fallen for [the Taiwanese government’s] nice rip-off of the century,” Wong mentioned.
Uninterested in the continued uncertainty, they’ve joined the rising group of Hong Kongers in Taiwan leaving for Britain, which has supplied them a pathway to citizenship. In whole, Wong is aware of of about 50 Hong Kongers who’ve launched into this second migration.
Nonetheless, Wong says he sees God’s hand at work throughout his time in Taiwan constructing a close-knit church neighborhood, bringing nonbelievers to religion, and displaying the shortfalls in putting his hope on a authorities—even a democratic one.
“Christians shouldn’t have an excessively romanticized or naive view of worldly political methods,” Wong mentioned. “Christians must know their hope is simply in God.”
Picture: Photograph courtesy of Wong Siu-yung
Searching for refuge in Taiwan
After China tightened its grip on Hong Kong in June 2020 with a far-reaching nationwide safety legislation, many Hong Kongers in search of better freedoms turned their sights towards Taiwan.
The self-governed island was a fast one-hour flight away from Hong Kong, which might permit members of the family to go to. The local weather, tradition, and language have been acquainted: Though Cantonese is spoken in Hong Kong and Mandarin in Taiwan, the written language is identical, and Mandarin is taught in Hong Kong colleges.
Most significantly, democratic Taiwan had publicly welcomed Hong Kongers fleeing the town. Because of this, greater than 27,000 Hong Kongers arrived in Taiwan on non permanent visas between 2019 and 2021, based on Taiwan’s authorities.
Wong determined to go away Hong Kong shortly after serving to to publish a press release declaring the Hong Kong church’s allegiance to Jesus over the Hong Kong authorities. A state-run newspaper claimed that he and the opposite organizers had incited secession and subversion beneath the newly enacted nationwide safety legislation. The punishment for these crimes was as much as a decade in jail.
Huang Tsung-sen, a Taiwanese pastor well-known for his help of the Hong Kong prodemocracy protests, inspired Wong to return to Taiwan. His church, Chi-nan Presbyterian Church in Taipei, wanted a Cantonese-speaking pastor for a bunch of Hong Kongers who had began attending.
Wong took him up on the supply. As extra college students and households moved to Taiwan, the church grew from 30 to 100 individuals inside a number of months. It was there that Hong Konger Florence Cheang professed religion in Christ and was baptized. Though she has shared the frustration of discovering herself in immigration limbo in Taiwan, she has been grateful for the church’s help. “I can share with them about all the pieces,” Cheang mentioned. She famous that with out them, “I dare not think about what my scenario can be, being right here alone.”
But Wong wasn’t capable of make any long-term plans in Taiwan. He arrived in Taiwan on a particular visa given to those that face persecution in Hong Kong. Though this allowed him and his spouse to remain in Taiwan, they weren’t allowed to work or entry Taiwan’s nationwide well being care. After six months, he utilized for a non secular visa usually utilized by Buddhist monks, which allowed the couple to remain three years and entry well being care however nonetheless didn’t permit them to work.
Wong preached on a volunteer foundation each attributable to his authorized standing and since the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT) required their pastors to graduate from the denomination’s seminaries. To make ends meet, Wong preached and taught lectures on a web-based ministry to Hong Kongers referred to as Superb Worship.
Tensions started to construct between Wong and Chi-nan church as he started to appreciate the Cantonese congregation wasn’t handled as an official a part of the church. “We felt increasingly that within the church, not everybody was like Pastor Huang in supporting Hong Kongers,” Wong remembered.
So the pastor determined to begin an unbiased Hong Kong church in Tamsui, a seaside district 15 miles north of Taipei the place many Hong Kongers now reside.
Supporting exiled Hong Kongers is a delicate subject in Taiwan’s church buildings. Congregations are made up of members with various political opinions: Some help Hong Kong’s prodemocracy protests whereas others facet extra with China. So as to stop battle, most church buildings skirt political matters.
As a result of these considerations, Wong struggled to discover a native church keen to hire its constructing to this new church plant. Some turned him down whereas others ghosted his requests. Wong introduced up his search together with his professor on the PCT seminary the place he was taking courses, and the professor reached out to a pal who pastored a church in Tamsui. The pastor agreed to permit Wong’s new church to fulfill of their constructing on Sunday afternoons. After delays attributable to a COVID-19 outbreak in Could, Hong Kong Church in Tamsui held its first assembly in September 2021.
Talking from their hearts
Wong discovered that in a brief period of time, this neighborhood of Hong Kong transplants had grown nearer than the church he had pastored in Hong Kong for 20 years.
“Though [members of my previous church] knew one another for greater than a dozen years, we felt that once we are in a small group, we are able to’t communicate frankly,” Wong mentioned. “If we communicate what’s in our hearts and we’re with individuals from a special camp, we might begin to argue.”
However the Hong Kongers who come to Hong Kong Church in Tamsui had left their homeland for a similar motive. In sermons, small teams, and prayers, Wong and his copastor Hung Kwok Him may speak about their homeland’s present scenario and members may lastly communicate overtly.
Kat Wong (no relation), a former member of the church, agreed, saying that the proestablishment contingent at her church made it arduous for her to overtly admit that she supported the protests.
“Right here, everybody can communicate overtly and freely,” she mentioned. She’s glad that the pastors’ sermons incorporate Christian religion in on a regular basis life. “I agree with Pastor Wong who says Christians want to talk out about injustice; we are able to’t say, ‘Let’s not focus on these unjust issues.’”
Kat Wong believes one other facet that binds congregants collectively is their shared expertise of leaving their houses and struggling to achieve residency in Taiwan. Kat Wong, who had labored as a nurse in Hong Kong, was initially advised by Taiwan immigration officers that if she got here to Taiwan on an expert visa, she would simply want to remain within the county for one yr earlier than she may apply for residency.
But throughout that yr she was confronted with contradictory guidelines: Her visa didn’t permit her to work, however the authorities needed proof she was contributing to Taiwan. So she took pottery courses, volunteered, and took journeys to study Taiwan’s historical past. In keeping with the immigration official in command of her case, that wasn’t sufficient. If a neighborhood firm would rent her, they might sponsor a piece allow, they advised her.
So by means of a Taiwanese pal, she discovered a newly opened house for older adults that will be keen to rent Kat as she had expertise working with that demographic. But the Ministry of Labor claimed she couldn’t work within the house as a result of she didn’t have a Taiwan nursing license. When the house agreed to let her work in a administration place, officers once more countered that it wouldn’t work because the visa she entered Taiwan with didn’t state a background in administration.
“If I lived right here one other yr, I’m not sure that I might get residency,” she mentioned. In March, Kat Wong moved to Manchester, England, to stay together with her son.
Wong’s personal try to get everlasting residency by means of an expert visa resulted in quite a few adjustments and contradictory necessities. At one level the immigration official requested if he had received any awards previously yr to show he contributed to Taiwan society and listed for instance “the Nobel Prize.”
A manner station for Hong Kongers
Because it turned clear Hong Kongers weren’t welcome in Taiwan, Wong started to alter the way in which he seen his position because the pastor of a Hong Kong church in Taiwan. Initially, he needed to assist his fellow Hong Kongers settle of their new house and discover methods to serve their local people. Now he sees the church as a manner station for vacationers passing by means of.
“We don’t know the way lengthy you’ll keep, we don’t know once you’ll depart, we don’t know the place you’re going,” Wong mentioned. “If you happen to come simply as soon as, we’ll shepherd you. … In the future once you depart, we’ll bless you.”
Wong made it a degree to provide every congregant leaving Taiwan a correct sendoff and blessing as many weren’t afforded that luxurious after they quietly and swiftly left Hong Kong.
Wong mentioned that after arriving in Nottingham, he plans to discover a “regular” job, noting that he’d even be keen to work at McDonald’s. He’s coping with PTSD from the tense previous yr in Hong Kong and weariness from the uncertainty in Taiwan. Hung will take over pastoring Hong Kong Church in Tamsui.
Wong sees God’s hand previously two years in Taiwan, even when it didn’t find yourself as he anticipated. He says that God taught him to not romanticize any worldly political system however that his solely hope is in God.
“Up to now few years, Hong Kong confronted many sad issues,” Wong mentioned. “So we wish to go to Taiwan, US, Canada, UK, and we convey with us this false concept that all the pieces we skilled in Hong Kong was dangerous, so the other should be good.”
But after dwelling in Taiwan, Wong discovered that even international locations that maintain up noble beliefs like democracy and human rights have their weaknesses. “We have to higher perceive how political methods align with our kingdom values and areas the place it’s very totally different,” he mentioned. “After we face a political energy, we must be clear headed and hold our distance.”