A pro-democracy church leader who says freedom is under threat in Hong Kong has resigned from his post, ten days before his term was due to end, and emigrated to the UK the same day.

Lo Hing-Choi.
Lo Hing-Choi.

Reverend Lo Hing-Choi, the head of the Baptist Convention of Hong Kong, wrote in an article published in Christian Times on Wednesday that he resigned on Tuesday and landed in the UK with his wife the same day.

“The largest or even the only reason is changes in Hong Kong. The space for freedom has been reduced and the government’s policies have veered away from the principles and foundations of reason and fairness,” Lo wrote.

‘The heart feels guilty’

The convention, an umbrella group for Baptist churches in the city, said it had received Lo’s resignation stating that he was unable to complete his term due to “personal reasons.” A deputy chairman will carry out his duties until Lo’s term officially ends at the end of April, according to a statement on its website.

Lo said he submitted his resignation “one minute” before boarding his flight to the UK. He explained that he did so as soon as space on the plane for his pet dog became available, the Headline newspaper reported.

The 68-year-old reverend, who assumed office in 2018 as the convention’s chairman and was re-elected twice, openly supported the 2019 pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. He penned articles comparing the situation of protesters to persecution faced by the Jews in the Old Testament, and also criticised the national security law imposed last June.

One of the Baptist Convention’s members, the Hong Kong Baptist Church. Photo: Caine45 via Wikipedia.

The day after the national security law came into force, the Beijing-owned Ta Kung Pao newspaper accused him of “secretly scheming underground subversion” by inviting members of the Baptist church to sign a petition against the legislation.

In his Christian Times article, Lo said he believed he had been guided by God to emigrate, although it had been a tough decision to make. He said “it feels a little like being a ‘deserter’, and makes the heart feels guilty.”

Lo and his wife will settle in Edinburgh after completing quarantine for Covid-19, the Stand News reported.

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Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.