A Hong Kong Baptist church leader known for his public criticism of the national security law China imposed on Hong Kong and an extradition bill that triggered the 2019 protests has stepped down from his post and moved to Britain.
Rev. Lo Hing-choi was reelected president of the city's 80,000-strong Baptist Convention last year and was due to finish his term at the end of this month.
He said his abrupt departure on was prompted by the erosion of Hong Kong's unique freedoms, The South China Morning Post reported.
Lo wrote in an article published in the Chinese-language Christian Times on April 21 that he resigned the day before 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," the 68-year-old pastor wrote.
"Hong Kong currently is not just being torn apart, but there is a dislocation created by those in power."
The Baptist convention, an umbrella group churches in the city, said it had received Lo's resignation stating that he was unable to complete his term due to "personal reasons," Hong Kong Free Press reported.
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.
ONE MINUTE BEFORE BOARDING
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 pastor assumed office in 2018 as the convention's chairman and was re-elected twice, while he 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 criticized the national security law imposed last June.
The day after the national security law came into force, the Beijing-owned Ta Kung Pao newspaper accused Lo 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 feel guilty."
Lo and his wife will settle in Edinburgh after completing quarantine for Covid-19, the Strand News reported,
Several outspoken church leaders have left Hong Kong after imposition of the the national security law.
Among them were evangelical pastors Wong Siu-yung and Yeung Kin-keung, who signed a joint "Gospel Declaration" calling on followers to point out wrongdoing by the authorities and to resist any totalitarian regime, the South China Morning Post reported.
The pair later announced they were going into self-imposed exile after being accused by pro-Beijing newspapers of inciting secession and subversion under the sweeping security law.