Bishop wants the hope back in HK

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 December, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 December, 2006, 12:00am

Retiring Anglican head offers an answer to social insecurity and work pressures

Social insecurity and work pressures have drained the hope from Hong Kong's people, says the outgoing head of the Anglican Church.

'People are living, but they are not living a real life,' says Peter Kwong Kong-kit, the head of the church since 1981.

While the economy may appear to have improved, the archbishop said, more elderly people were forced to work beyond retirement and there was no stability for workers. The government should be doing more to protect the underprivileged, he believes.

'We lack a real sense of security in society, and whatever the government does to help is too piecemeal,' said Mr Kwong, 70, who will retire at the end of this month as the leader of the 30,000-strong Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui. Government leaders need more vision, and they need to be more responsive to society's needs, he says, though the administration is only partly to blame.

Different social groups should be more trusting of each other too, he said in an interview. And people should stop being slaves to materialism.

'I am pessimistic about the future of Hong Kong. I think life in Hong Kong has become more difficult. In the past, there was hope in society, but in today's Hong Kong, it is difficult for one to see hope,' he said. In his final Christmas address, the archbishop says people need to change their mentality if they are to move forward.

'If we view virtue as more important than glory, discover contentment in our lives, we will be able to live as free people in nature as God intended it,' he said, 'where we can be the masters of society, and not its slaves.'

Mr Kwong said Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen should focus on improving people's livelihoods, not on political bickering. And his administration should shed its 'Hong Kong vs mainland' approach to cross-border development.

'Why does Hong Kong want to become the dragon head in everything?

'This attitude is not realistic.'

When Ye Xiaowen , director of the State Administration of Religious Affairs, met Archbishop Kwong in Hong Kong this month he gave him as a retirement gift a calligraphy of words from the Old Testament's Book of Joshua: 'I am as strong now as then.'

But Mr Kwong said the church had less influence now than before the handover, both because of a change in the government's attitude towards religious groups and because of the style of the administrations of Tung Chee-hwa and Mr Tsang.

'I like to help people. But I found that it has become more difficult to help people. The church should be able to help the underprivileged but its power has become much less now than before,' he said.

'The church could have shared more of the burden the government is currently shouldering, but it seems the government does not want to tap the church's resources,' he said.

He said one problem which made relations between the government and the church worse was the government's failure to adequately consult stakeholders in society, such as on education reform - an issue which has put the church at odds with the government.