9 December 2019
Archbishop Paul Kwong insists people should not march on the streets even if they want to fight for social and political issues. Photos: HKEJ, TVB
Archbishop Paul Kwong insists people should not march on the streets even if they want to fight for social and political issues. Photos: HKEJ, TVB

Archbishop Kwong owes July 1 marchers an apology

The controversy raised by Archbishop Paul Kwong in his remarks on the July 1 march should offer the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui, the local Anglican Church, an opportunity to reflect on what its stand should be on the burning issue of political reform.

According to a statement published on its website, it is the mission of the church “to seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation”.

It says further: “The Archbishop encourages all Anglicans to be faithful to God and responsible for their own decisions. If they choose to be involved in political and social justice issues, they will have the clergy’s support behind them. Courses on social justice issues will also be offered in Ming Hua Theological College, in the hope of equipping us to face and respond to social issues.”

Beautiful, if brave, words. But why is it that the Most Reverend Dr. Kwong appeared to have ignored the church’s avowed mission?

In his sermon on Sunday, the good archbishop criticized those who joined the pro-democracy march, saying they are displaying “herd mentality”. He said people should not march on the streets even if they want to fight for social and political issues, noting that Jesus Christ kept silent even when his life was under threat.

As the leader of the church, should he not have shown support, if not love and mercy, for the hundreds of thousands of people who are calling for fair and genuine elections? That’s what the church’s mission statement says.

Was it right for him to criticize the protests as damaging to social harmony and urge members of his church not to join the mass actions?

The church is the people, and the people want change. Why is he now allowing it to be used by those whose idea of social harmony is acquiescence? 

While some of the church members may agree with the archbishop’s views, a great proportion of the phoned-in comments in radio talk shows about the issue, some of which were also quoting Bible verses to support their arguments, call for action to achieve social and political ends. 

Reverend Peter Koon, the provincial secretary-general of the church, said Kwong’s sermon was not meant to be a public statement as the sermon was delivered behind closed doors, and the archbishop was speaking for himself and not for the entire church.

Koon also stressed that Kwong loves Hong Kong and he doesn’t want to see the city to be divided by the raging political debate. He also said the church does not encourage its members to use violence and non-peaceful means to express their views.

Some church members would say that the public should respect Kwong’s views since, as followers of Christ, we should all love and respect each other. But why is it that Kwong didn’t show mercy and respect to the students who were arrested, and used humorous — that is, insulting — words to criticize them?

After all, many of the leaders of the Occupy Central with Love and Peace like Reverend Chu Yiu-ming, Benny Tai and Chan Kin-man are also Christians. Cardinal Joseph Zen of the Catholic Church led the walk for universal suffrage around Hong Kong last month to raise public awareness on the importance of a fair and transparent electoral system in Hong Kong. Can we say that his views on the issue and his actions violate the tenets of his faith?

Kwong, as a religious leader of Hong Kong, should face the public and apologize to them, especially to those who joined the march and were detained. It’s not a question of whether he was just being humorous or not. It’s a matter of respect for fellowmen.

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EJ Insight writer