The former leader of the Hong Kong Christian Council has criticized China's central government for reviving "autocracy" and tightening its grip on Hong Kong's politics and economy.
Rev. Po Kam-cheong, who stepped down as the secretary general of the council on Dec. 31 after his nine-year tenure, shared his personal political observations and urged local churches serving a Protestant congregation of about half a million to be "united and courageous" as they face the challenges.
"In these nine years, the central government not only represented Hong Kong on foreign affairs," Po wrote, as reported by South China Morning Post.
"It deepened its involvement in the city's politics, economy, and even mass media, education and laws," he added.
Hong Kong has been guaranteed a "high degree of autonomy" under the "one country, two systems" principle after it was handed over from British to Chinese rule in 1997.
Po has lamented that the one country principle has been "gradually devouring 'two systems,'" adding that the city is no longer under the framework of its mini-constitution, the Basic Law, but under the Chinese Constitution.
In an article he wrote on Dec. 27, Po said that he "could not be glad at all" as Hong Kong celebrated the 20th anniversary of the handover last summer because of the jailing of three prominent student leaders.
Democracy activists Joshua Wong, Alex Chow and Nathan Law received jail sentences ranging from six to eight months in August for their role in the 2014 Umbrella Movement protests. The three activists are currently on bail pending their appeal.
Po went on to criticize Beijing's leadership and expressed concern about the re-emergence of autocracy in Hong Kong.
"I've never thought that everything in Hong Kong would get better under the Communist Party's rule, but I couldn't imagine either that 40 years after the death of Mao Zedong ... the spectre of the Cultural Revolution would re-emerge and autocracy would revive," he said, referring to Mao Zedong's 10-year campaign that saw the suppression of free speech and killing of dissidents in China.
In October, Chinese politicians who attended the party congress drew attention as they heaped titles on President Xi Jinping reminiscent of the Mao era.
Po also expressed disappointment about the lack of democracy in other countries, especially in Communist countries, following the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.
He encouraged churches to be "more united, sober, and bold in expressing the voice of faith" and expressed hope that the Christian faith would help people like him find courage as well as a clear mind and vision in facing Hong Kong's "unprecedented" challenges.