Reverend Peter Koon, secretary general of the Hong Kong Anglican Church, has once again caused heartburn among his church followers by making overtly political comments and striking a pro-Beijing stance.
During a radio program Monday, Koon openly called for support for the government’s electoral reform bill which will be put to a Legislative Council vote next week.
Lawmakers must pass the bill as it will be in Hong Kong’s interests, the church leader said, arguing that the electoral system will ensure that all Hong Kong people can have a say in choosing the city’s leader, rather than just a 1,200-member nomination committee.
Koon, who is an official spokesperson for the local Anglican Church — also known as Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui — lamented the hostilities being displayed by some people towards the central government.
In pitching for a conciliatory stance, Koon suggested that good behavior and obedience will prove rewarding in the end.
And he laid out an example in a rather personal way.
“Recently I raised a kitten. While my friends warned me that the creature could destroy my home furniture, it has however behaved very well.”
“Because of its good behavior, I never put my kitten in a cage. I give it much freedom and space,” he said.
Koon, who was a vocal opponent of the Occupy pro-democracy protests last year, was suggesting that Hong Kong will prosper only if locals shed their antagonism towards Beijing.
“If Hong Kong wants more freedom (from China), it very much depends on our behavior and performance,” he said.
It’s quite clear from Koon’s comments that he sees the relationship between China and Hong Kong as akin to a master and his kitten.
The church leader believes that Hong Kong people angered Beijing’s top leaders by launching the Occupy campaign last year.
Beijing’s concerns over anti-mainland sentiments may have in fact convinced the National People’s Congress Standing Committee to come up with a tight framework for the Hong Kong chief executive election, he feels.
Koon’s comments on the electoral reform package drew criticism from both Anglican Church followers as well as other religious leaders.
“I won’t be angry any more. I just want him [Koon] to talk more to the mass media, so that the public can make their own judgment,” a young Anglican Church follower said in an online forum.
Reverend Chu Yiu-ming, one of the leaders of the Occupy Central campaign last year, described Koon’s reference to Hong Kong people as cats as being completely inappropriate.
“Why have Hong Kong people suddenly become animals?” Chu said.
This is not the first time that a top official of the Anglican Church has come out in support of the political establishment.
In July last year, Dr. Paul Kwong, the archbishop of the Anglican Church, poured cold water on the Occupy Central movement and the massive July 1 pro-democracy rally, deeming them as unnecessary.
The church leader said there is no use calling for full autonomy, pointing out that Hong Kong has never had full autonomy, only high degree of autonomy.
In contrast to the Anglican Church, the Catholic Church has adopted a much more progressive view in pushing forward a democratic electoral system in Hong Kong.
Cardinal Joseph Zen even undertook a week-long walking tour in June 2014 to urge Hong Kong people to participate in an unofficial referendum on electoral reforms.
For Anglican Church followers, concerns are growing that their church leaders have failed to adopt at least a neutral stance on political issues.
As the church has an important role in upholding core values and taking the community forward, Koon needs to ponder whether his comments will hinder or help the cause of political reforms.
Supporting a flawed electoral reform package may please Hong Kong’s perceived masters in Beijing, but will it be in the interests of the public?
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