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Archbishop-elect of Hong Kong pledges harmony

18 December 2020

The Church is a reconciler between China and Hong Kong and Macao, he said

PA

A couple in an Hong Kong shopping mall on Sunday. Coronavirus restrictions have been increased in response to a further spike

A couple in an Hong Kong shopping mall on Sunday. Coronavirus restrictions have been increased in response to a further spike

THE Archbishop-elect of Hong Kong, the Rt Revd Andrew Chan, has pledged that the Church under his leadership will work towards establishing a “harmonious and coalescing relationship” between China — “the motherland” — and Hong Kong and Macao.

Hong Kong was currently “experiencing fragmentation, hostility, mistrust, and hatred among different factions” in both the Church and the wider community, he said, and he offered the Church as a “bridge and reconciliator in our home town”.

Bishop Chan, who studied at Newcastle University and trained for the ministry at Salisbury and Wells Theological College and Heythrop College, will succeed Archbishop Paul Kwong soon after his retirement at the end of this year.

Dr Kwong expressed pro-Beijing views throughout his period as Archbishop, and, in a letter to the Church Times (News, 10 July), backed the new security law introduced by China. Bishop Chan, who is currently Bishop of Western Kowloon, has previously signed a joint letter criticising both the government for refusing to listen to protesters, and the violence of protesters who stormed the Hong Kong parliament building.

He said: “We are indeed faced with really serious challenges within the Church, as well as in the society at large. The Chinese term for ‘crisis’ is literally ‘danger’ and ‘opportunity’ put together. I see this as a chance for us to continuously renew ourselves to be the bridge and reconciliator in our home town, fully functioning as the light and salt in the world. As the Archbishop-elect, I do not, and indeed cannot, harbour any fears for the days ahead.

“Going forward in faith, I will seek to nurture co-operation in building a more harmonious and coalescing relationship between the motherland and the Hong Kong and Macao SARs [special administrative regions], so all may flourish amidst mutual respect and understanding.”

Observers of the situation in Hong Kong hope that the election of Bishop Chan will lead to a change in tone from the Anglican Church in Hong Kong.

The human-rights campaigner Benedict Rogers, who founded Hong Kong Watch, said that both the Anglican Church and the Roman Catholic Church had been “compromised” by their silence over the erosions of freedoms in Hong Kong. While some individuals — including Cardinal Joseph Zen — had spoken out against the Churches’ silent complicity with human-rights abuses, some had “actively supported” the regime, including Archbishop Kwong.

“The Church in Hong Kong is very visible and prominent, and it’s very disappointing that Archbishop Paul Kwong, and also the Catholic diocese, have been so compromised over the erosion of freedoms in Hong Kong. We would like to have seen the Church play a more outspoken and courageous role against the erosions of freedom.

“The hierarchy at the top of the Church has been not just silent but actively supportive of the regime. In the UK, Bishops have been outspoken in debates in the Lords, but some have been written to by Archbishop Kwong to ask them not to comment.”

The Church has to rebuild trust, particularly with young people, and needs to be bolder and more courageous in defending human rights and human dignity, Mr Rogers said.

“There is space for the Church to play a role in reconciliation, as long as it stops doing that which is perceived to be sympathetic to the regime. It needs to rebuild trust by being more outspoken on issues of human rights, as they have lost trust among younger people. The Church overall has divided itself into those who support the regime, but also those who were very visible during the movement, when singing ‘Hallelujah to the Lord’ became an anthem for the protest, and a number of churches were providing sanctuary for protesters.”

One of the churches that supported protesters, the Good Neighbour North District Church, was raided by police last week, hours after the bank accounts of its pastor and the church charity were frozen. The church’s pastor, Ray Chan, who is currently in the UK, said that it was an act of “political retaliation” by the authorities for assistance provided by his church to young protesters.

A group from the church, Safeguard Our Generation, made up of middle-aged and elderly volunteers, offered humanitarian assistance during the mass protests, placing themselves between police and young protesters.

The Hong Kong and Beijing authorities have been pursuing people who are linked to the pro-democracy movement, arresting people under the national security law, and removing politicians who are deemed a threat to national security. One of the most high-profile people to be arrested is the media tycoon Jimmy Lai, a critic of the Beijing authorities, who is accused of conspiring with foreign forces to endanger national security.

Mr Rogers urged the Church to find a way to speak “with a prophetic voice for justice. . . My hope is that the Church would take a bolder stance on the side of human rights and dignity.

“In Hong Kong, there is a mood of depression and fear: the case of Jimmy Lai has had a chilling effect. The media is also under threat, and the Church is one of the few spaces where it could use its voice, if it has the courage to do so.”

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