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Religious Discourse, Social Participation, and Identity Construction of Hong Kong Protestant Christians from 1970 to 1997: An Oral and Documentary History

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Dr. Kwok, Wai Luen

M.Soc.Sc. (CityU), M.Div. (ABS), Th.M. (ABS), Ph.D. (KCL)

Associate Head/Associate Professor, Department of Religion and Philosophy and Office of the Dean of Arts

Funding:

  • General Research Fund, Research Grants Council, Hong Kong. HK$ 406,964

Introduction

  • Christian political participation is obvious in the Umbrella Movement of 2014 and Anti-Extradition Bill Movement of 2019. The role of Christianity in this area demands serious attention. Its root can be traced back to the colonial period. In previous studies, Christianity was usually considered as a “tool” of the colonial government. This research suggests that the interactions between religion, politics, and society are more complicated than we supposed. Since the colonial government implemented its localization policy and subsidized social services programs to cope with discontents among Hong Kong Chinese after the 1967 riot, Hong Kong Chinese Christians have become increasingly active in their participation of social and political issues. In these socio-political involvements, it might be that Chinese Christians emphasized their Chinese identity, but did not agree with left-wing patriot activism. Also, they criticized the government and its policies, while at the same time supporting its reforms. In order to have a better understanding of the decolonization process of Hong Kong and an understanding of what a good church–state relation might be, it is important for us to study the interrelations and conflicts between Christians’ religious, ethnic, and socio-political identities. 
    This project focuses on studying the dynamics and interactions of religious discourses, identity construction, and social participation of Hong Kong Chinese Protestant Christians from 1970 to 1997. More specifically, it explores the reciprocal relation of religious belief and social identity construction of believers, and the religious-socio- political implications of this relation in a colonial context. 
    The key research questions are: 1. What are the characteristics of the relationships between religious discourses, social participation, and socio-political identity of Christians? Is there any reciprocal relation? 2. What are the characteristics of these discourses compared with the general understanding of social participation and socio- political identity in Hong Kong of that period? 3. What are the strengths and weaknesses of this identity construction for coping with social change when comparing it with the general ethos of the Hong Kong society and other Christian decolonization experience? The major contribution of this research is providing information and an analytical angle for a framework of understanding decolonization and Christian political participation. 
    The methodology of this research is oral and documentary history. This method is chosen because gathering primary sources and establishing a substantial data bank is important for an exploratory research on contemporary history. 

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