The authoritarian rule in China took control in Hong Kong over two years ago and yet Christians that remain are growing in their faith.
In 1997, Beijing agreed to govern Hong Kong under the 'One Country, two systems' principle, which was supposed to last 50 years. China went back on that principle shortly after pro-democracy protests started happening in 2019. After the protests, Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law that allowed it to punish critics and silence dissenters.
Since that time many human rights and religious freedom activists have been arrested. Others fled the country in fear of being arrested.
A pastor named David moved to Hong Kong a decade ago to reach Mandarin-speaking people with the gospel.
"I arrived in Hong Kong ten years ago and saw a big demand among the Mandarin-speaking community," says David, whose last name remains anonymous for safety reasons. "There were very few churches that were reaching this group with the good news of Christ."
A couple of years after moving there, David started a small home church with people from the mainland, according to CBN News. Then it began to grow in number.
Losing Their Freedoms
A devout Catholic and defender of human rights and religious freedoms, Jimmy Lai was arrested after being caught protesting in 2019. Lai faces the possibility of life in prison based on separate national security charges.
"For us Christians, following Jesus means going through all kinds of trials and difficulties," says David. "Just read the Bible!"
An American pastor that runs a church in Hong Kong has seen the laws affect his congregation.
"Thousands of teachers have left Hong Kong, thousands of students have left Hong Kong, in our own church, we have had over 300 members that have left."
Hong Kong was an open city one moment to a city filled with fear the moment China took over, according to the locals.
The American pastor explains why it's so hard for the Christian Chinese population in Hong Kong.
"A lot of people who are locals will say 'you have an international passport, you can leave anytime. I don't, so I need to leave when I can."
With all the persecution, David sees many opportunities to share God's love with the locals.
"We've never had these many Mandarin-speaking people in the city before. You can hear them walking around on the streets, the subways, it's a great time to reach them."
According to the American pastor, the unity among fellow Christians is stronger than ever in China.
"There is nothing that's going to happen that's going to stop the church. Nothing. No matter how repressive, how domineering, no matter how demanding, nothing will stop God's work. God doesn't change. His message doesn't change. His church doesn't change."
According to Open Doors World Watch List, China is currently the 17th hardest country in the world to live as a Christian.