Since Wong Siu-yung opened a church for Hong Kong Christians in Taiwan final 12 months, it attracted greater than three dozen attendees. However in that point the one Cantonese-speaking church on the island has confronted vital turnover.
A couple of congregants returned to their earlier residence. However many of the 10 who departed moved to the UK.
“I watched all of them hand over and go away Taiwan,” Wong stated. “Relocating for the second time in such a brief time frame could be very tough.”
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 residence 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 depart his homeland instantly.
Taiwan initially promised to offer “settlement and care” to 1000’s of Hong Kongers like Wong. However within the months since, the federal government has made it more and more tough for Hong Kongers to achieve everlasting residency, stopping many from working and deciding on the island. Authorities officers fear that permitting Hong Kongers to resettle in Taiwan may provoke China and open the door to Chinese language Communist Get together (CCP) infiltrators.
Wong and his congregation have confronted roadblock after roadblock: After promoting their properties in Hong Kong, quitting their jobs, and pulling their children 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 stated.
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 stated. “Christians have to know their hope is barely in God.”
Picture: Picture courtesy of Wong Siu-yung
In search of refuge in Taiwan
After China tightened its grip on Hong Kong in June 2020 with a far-reaching nationwide safety regulation, many Hong Kongers in search of larger freedoms turned their sights towards Taiwan.
The self-governed island was a fast one-hour flight away from Hong Kong, which might enable 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 similar, and Mandarin is taught in Hong Kong colleges.
Most significantly, democratic Taiwan had publicly welcomed Hong Kongers fleeing town. Because of this, greater than 27,000 Hong Kongers arrived in Taiwan on non permanent visas between 2019 and 2021, in keeping with Taiwan’s authorities.
Wong determined to depart Hong Kong shortly after serving to to publish a statement 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 regulation. 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 gaggle 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 Cheng 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,” Cheng stated. 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 sometimes utilized by Buddhist monks, which allowed the couple to remain three years and entry well being care however nonetheless didn’t enable them to work.
Wong preached on a volunteer foundation each because of 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 start out an impartial 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 topic in Taiwan’s church buildings. Congregations are made up of members with various political views: Some help Hong Kong’s prodemocracy protests whereas others aspect extra with China. With a purpose to stop battle, most church buildings skirt political matters.
On account of these issues, 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 lessons, and the professor reached out to a pal who pastored a church in Tamsui. The pastor agreed to permit Wong’s new church to satisfy of their constructing on Sunday afternoons. After delays because of a COVID-19 outbreak in Might, 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.
“Although [members of my previous church] knew one another for greater than a dozen years, we felt that after we are in a small group, we are able to’t converse frankly,” Wong stated. “If we converse what’s in our hearts and we’re with individuals from a special camp, we’d begin to argue.”
However the Hong Kongers who come to Hong Kong Church in Tamsui had left their homeland for a similar purpose. In sermons, small teams, and prayers, Wong and his copastor Hung Kwok Him may discuss their homeland’s present scenario and members may lastly converse brazenly.
Kat Wong (no relation), a former member of the church, agreed, saying that the proestablishment contingent at her church made it exhausting for her to brazenly admit that she supported the protests.
“Right here, everybody can converse brazenly and freely,” she stated. 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 talk about these unjust issues.’”
Kat Wong believes one other side that binds congregants collectively is their shared expertise of leaving their properties and struggling to achieve residency in Taiwan. Kat Wong, who had labored as a nurse in Hong Kong, was initially instructed 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 12 months earlier than she may apply for residency.
But throughout that 12 months she was confronted with contradictory guidelines: Her visa didn’t enable her to work, however the authorities wished proof she was contributing to Taiwan. So she took pottery lessons, volunteered, and took journeys to find out about Taiwan’s historical past. In keeping with the immigration official answerable for her case, that wasn’t sufficient. If an area firm would rent her, they may sponsor a piece allow, they instructed her.
So via a Taiwanese pal, she discovered a newly opened residence for older adults that might 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 residence 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 12 months, I’m not sure that I’d get residency,” she stated. In March, Kat Wong moved to Manchester, England, to reside along with her son.
Wong’s personal try to get everlasting residency via an expert visa resulted in quite a few modifications and contradictory necessities. At one level the immigration official requested if he had received any awards up to now 12 months to show he contributed to Taiwan society and listed for instance “the Nobel Prize.”
A approach station for Hong Kongers
Because it grew to become clear Hong Kongers weren’t welcome in Taiwan, Wong started to vary the best way he considered his position because the pastor of a Hong Kong church in Taiwan. Initially, he wished to assist his fellow Hong Kongers settle of their new residence and discover methods to serve their local people. Now he sees the church as a approach station for vacationers passing via.
“We don’t know the way lengthy you’ll keep, we don’t know while you’ll go away, we don’t know the place you’re going,” Wong stated. “Should you come simply as soon as, we’ll shepherd you. … Sooner or later while you go away, we’ll bless you.”
Wong made it some extent to present 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 stated 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 12 months 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 up to now 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.
“Previously few years, Hong Kong confronted many sad issues,” Wong stated. “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 unhealthy, so the other have to be good.”
But after residing in Taiwan, Wong realized that even nations 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 stated. “Once we face a political energy, we have to be clear headed and hold our distance.”