Church leaders hit out at 'selfish' Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 December, 2011, 12:00am


The leaders of Hong Kong's Anglican and Catholic churches yesterday denounced the 'selfishness' of a city beset by a widening gap between rich and poor, saying the quest for personal wealth was inconsistent with the true spirit of Christmas.

Seizing on last month's deadly fire in Mong Kok's Fa Yuen Street market as an example, Anglican archbishop Paul Kwong (pictured) said in his holiday message to the city that Hongkongers' selfishness was at the root of some of this year's most controversial issues.

Kwong accused the Fa Yuen Street hawkers in particular of being 'cold-blooded' for protesting against plans to dismantle their stalls at night, a safety measure proposed after the fire broke out in the market in the early hours of November 30 .

He said their protests had shown they were more worried about their businesses than the victims of a fire that killed nine people - a number some dismissed as 'a trivial matter'.

'All life is precious,' the archbishop stressed, adding: 'I simply cannot imagine that Hong Kong people have become so cold-hearted as to place properties or making a living above life.' He also said selfishness was at the root of the right-of-abode issue involving domestic helpers. 'Upholding personal interests and being self-centred is the breeding ground for xenophobia,' Kwong said. He urged Hongkongers to not think that foreigners would 'take away our resources, job opportunities and welfare'.

In an apparent reference to the planned construction of a waste incinerator in Tseung Kwan O in April, Kwong said selfishness was also obstructing the development of public facilities that could benefit many.

Instead, neighbours were complaining that the development would affect their property values and cause foul smells and traffic congestion.

He said he understood that these developments may have undesirable consequences, but people should be willing to act for the good of others.

Catholic Bishop John Tong Hon, in a Christmas message targeting the wealthy and political elite, said the recent case of a two-year-old girl left to die after being struck by a truck in Guangzhou was 'a warning call for us to get rid of our selfishness'.

The bishop said: 'Many people in Hong Kong are having great difficulty finding a place to live. We hope and pray that our government, wealthy people and business groups will strive to solve such an urgent problem as housing, which is a basic need and basic right of each family.'

Meanwhile, the Mong Kok District Residents Association held a meeting yesterday at which about two dozen Fa Yuen Street residents voiced their concerns over hawkers.

Jenny Wong Suk-man, who has lived in a building opposite those that burned down, said: 'All we want is for the stall owners to put their things away at night to not block pathways so ... we can escape quickly in emergencies. The residents are afraid that the stall owners will think we are trying to ruin their business with our demands, when we actually fully respect their right to make a living, but all we want is to be safe.'