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Hong Kong: Christian activist warns of threat to religious freedom as protests escalate

A number of protesters have been arrested while trying to run from a Hong Kong university campus surrounded by police.

Officers used tear gas, rubber bullets and batons to fight off protesters as they tried to break through a cordon that is trapping hundreds on a university campus.

Some campaigners have thrown petrol bombs and fired arrows at officers.

The violence is some of the worst seen in the territory since anti-government demonstrations began almost six months ago.

The protests started over a controversial extradition bill, and have now evolved into broader anti-government demonstrations.

Co-founder and chair of human rights charity Hong Kong Watch, Ben Rogers told Premier the Hong Kong government is to blame for the escalating violence and called for it to "address the grievances and the demands of the protesters".

"We of course, condemn acts of violence by the students, but we also have to understand that has been as a result of the desperation and frustration.

"It's worth remembering that the violence really was started by the police. The protests were entirely peaceful some months ago."

"The government need to hold an independent inquiry into police brutality, an inquiry that holds the police accountable for horrific violence that they have carried out, but also to set out a plan for political reform for universal suffrage for democracy."

"If they don't do that, the only way it's going to end is I fear is with an even more severe and bloody crackdown," he added.

The former Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow and former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, issued an appeal to Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Sunday, urging her to order the Hong Kong Police Force to show restraint in its response to protests at Hong Kong's Polytechnic University.

China's ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming has warned against foreign countries, including Britain, interfering in Hong Kong's affairs.

Rogers says the international community are obligated to intervene in "any major human rights crisis and to speak out for the universal values of human rights."

He added: "Britain in particular has not just a moral responsibility because of our history with Hong Kong but also a legal responsibility under the Sino-British Joint Declaration, to which we're a signatory.

"We have a responsibility to monitor the situation and to speak out for the promises that were made to the people of Hong Kong."

Rogers expressed concern for the potential implications the conflict could have on religious rights in Hong Kong and urged Christians to pray.

"It's important to remember that if general freedoms in Hong Kong are further eroded, sooner or later religious freedom will be affected.

"If Hong Kong's way of life is dismantled, then the church will be directly affected in that way, and so pray specifically for the church at this time in Hong Kong.

"Pray for an end to violence on both sides and pray for a peaceful political solution to this crisis."

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