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Archbishop Kwong’s stance on China is condemned

17 July 2020

New security law not a threat to religious freedom, he says


Young democracy activists at a news conference in Hong Kong, on Wednesday. The activists are part of the “localist” movement, which calls for greater autonomy for Hong Kong

Young democracy activists at a news conference in Hong Kong, on Wednesday. The activists are part of the “localist” movement, which calls ...

CIVIL-RIGHTS groups and Hong Kong residents have voiced outrage at the support of the Archbishop of Hong Kong, the Most Revd Paul Kwong, for China’s new National Security Law (NSL), which gives the state wide-ranging powers to suppress opposition.

Archbishop Kwong wrote to the Church Times last Friday welcoming the new law, which, he insisted, would not threaten religious freedoms, contrary to a warning by Roman Catholic bishops in Asia.

Hong Kong Sheng Kung HuiThe Archbishop of Hong Kong, the Most Revd Paul Kwong

International criticism of the new law was not, he said, an expression of “Christian sentiment but of anti-China sentiment”, and he was proud to be living in China.

“Many critics do not accept the fact that we are part of China. They only emphasise two systems, not one country. I cherish our Hong Kong freedoms — in particular, the freedom of religion and way of life — as much as anyone, and I don’t think this law will change any of that. I am also proud to be living in China.

“Many of the protesters and rioters on the streets have carried British or American flags advocating independence of Hong Kong, inviting foreign nations to interfere in local affairs, and, as we have seen, they have committed acts that cannot be tolerated in any society. I support the right to peaceful demonstration, but I cannot condone violence, nor can I support anti-China political views.”

He criticised the view that suggested that the United States and Britain were “the benevolent protector and saviour of Hong Kong”.

“In fact, China has been helping and supporting Hong Kong and our people all these years. We are part of China; we are dependent on China; and we benefit from China,” he concluded. The Archbishop has been a delegate to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the country’s top advisory body, since 2013.

The Anglican Church in Hong Kong numbers about 40,000 out of a Christian community of about 900,000.

The new National Security Law outlaws acts of secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces, but is so broad in its scope that protesters have already been arrested for carrying pro-independence flags.

Primaries held by China’s pro-democratic parties at the weekend, in advance of Legislative Council elections in September, have been declared illegal by China, and an investigation has been launched into whether they breached the new security law. The Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam, said this week that the primaries “may fall into the category of subverting the state power, which is now one of the four types of offences under the new National Security Law”.

The organisation Human Rights Watch accused Archbishop Kwong of spreading the “propaganda of the Chinese Communist Party”, and said that the new law did threaten religious freedoms.

“The Archbishop’s views are striking in that they misrepresent the nature of the Hong Kong protests, and closely align with the propaganda of the Chinese Communist Party.

“The National Security Law seriously undermines Hong Kong’s rule of law, and threatens the freedoms of people in the territory, including religious freedom. The Chinese Communist Party’s long-standing persecution of Christians in China is well-known, and the vague crimes contained in the NSL have been used against Christian pastors and believers in China. Wang Yi, of Early Rain Church, was sentenced to nine years in prison in December 2019 for ‘inciting subversion’” (News, 3 January).

Hong Kong residents have written to the Church Times to protest at Archbishop Kwong’s support for the new law. One accused him of “betraying your God”, and another said that Dr Kwong’s stance was “staggeringly unchristian”.

“If you appease brutality by hoping that it won’t happen to you, then you cannot expect to be rescued when it eventually does,” one resident, Lee Faulkner, writes.

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