Police officers in Hong Kong videotaped Christians outside the city’s Anglican cathedral as they gathered this week to mourn and pay respects to Queen Elizabeth II, who died earlier this month.
Officers from a 12-member police team stationed outside St. John’s Cathedral in central Hong Kong on Sept. 25 evening captured video footage of churchgoers as they left the church premises, Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) reported on Sept. 27.
The measure was taken for the “public safety” of citizens, according to the Hong Kong police’s media relations team, admitting people were filmed.
The team stated that it had deployed “appropriate manpower to maintain public order and ensure public safety.”
Police officials also stated that officers “undertake filming … for internal review to continuously improve the management of and response to public events.”
The church had held a choral evensong, a church service that involves the singing of prayers, to honor the life of Queen Elizabeth II, St. John’s Cathedral announced on social media.
Queen Elizabeth II, the United Kingdom’s longest-serving monarch and the Supreme Governor of the Church of England (Anglicans) died on Sept. 8 at the age of 96. She was buried on Sept. 19.
The police move in the former British colony comes after football fans booed the Chinese national anthem at a Hong Kong football stadium during a match between Myanmar and Hong Kong on Sept. 24.
Officials at the Anglican cathedral have yet to comment on the video recording incident.
Hong Kongers’ unprecedented display of grief at the death of the British monarch is tied to an indirect display of dissent and memory of a better time during British colonial rule, people say.
“We are mourning the end of an era when there was hope that the future would be better. This is our way of indirectly expressing our dissatisfaction with the state of Hong Kong now,” said Tommy, who is in his early thirties.
Mark Hampton from Hong Kong’s Lingnan University felt that nostalgia was also a major contributor to the grief and affection shown by Hongkongers to the Queen.
“There’s a linking of the Queen with a nostalgia for an earlier period, but it’s not necessarily about colonialism,” he said. “It maybe has to do with [missing] a simpler era.”
Pro-Beijing media outlets, however, viewed the affection for the deceased monarch as an anti-national move.
In a recent commentary, the Ta Kung Pao newspaper called mourners “anti-Chinese elements” who were “whitewashing colonial rule.”
Earlier, the police arrested a 43-year-old man under the sedition law for playing Glory to Hong Kong — the unofficial anthem of the 2019 protests — on a harmonica in front of the UK Consulate on Sept. 29.
Britain handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997 following 156 years of colonial rule, based on the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration.
Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China, was guaranteed a higher degree of autonomy and basic freedoms and rights including an independent legislature and judiciary with the communist regime promising to continue to maintain the existing governance and economy under a “one country, two systems” framework.
However, Hong Kong’s freedoms and rights eroded significantly after 2019 pro-democracy protests, a heavy-handed government crackdown, and a Beijing-imposed draconian National Security Law in 2020.
The purge against pro-democracy politicians, activists, and supporters under the National Security Law led to the arrests and jailing of hundreds, while many fled the city to escape abuses. Independent media outlets have been forcibly shut down
Dozens, including religious leaders, are facing court cases for their pro-democracy stance.
Cardinal Joseph Zen, Jimmy Lai, Catholic media mogul and owner of now-defunct Apple Daily, and Protestant pastor Garry Pang Moon-yuen are among the prominent Christians facing court cases in Hong Kong.
The crisis in Hong Kong has also divided the city’s Christian community.
Hong Kong’s former and current chief executive — Carrie Lam and John Lee — are both Catholics, while several frontline pro-democracy campaigners are also Catholics.
The United States Office of International Religious Freedom reported in 2021 that Hong Kong had an estimated 621,000 Catholics and 800,000 Protestants in a city of about 7.3 million.