Archbishop preaches self-interest

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 December, 2011, 12:00am


Christmas messages from church leaders are traditionally bromide. But Anglican Archbishop of Hong Kong and Macau Paul Kwong delivered a bitter pill, lambasting Hongkongers for being 'cold-blooded' and heartless.

Some recent unfortunate incidents seem to have irked him. Without citing examples, he said 'whenever a public facility, or a development project is about to start, residents will oppose it'.

Did he mean neighbours who opposed the planned construction of a giant waste incinerator, public columbariums, or those who complained about an international school on Lantau that produced too much noise during recess? Perhaps.

But he was probably talking about his own experience. The Anglican Church and its social service affiliate, St James' Settlement, have had at least two property disputes on their hands.

In one of them, neighbours at Jardine's Lookout, Mount Butler, have opposed the church's plan to turn its current site into a giant complex for a seminary, hostel, kindergarten and administrative offices. How did the church get all this without paying a hefty land premium?

Well, in a quid pro quo, it promises to preserve four historic buildings it owns in Central: Bishop's House, St Paul's Church, the Church Guest House and the old Sheng Kung Hui Kei Yan Primary School. In the best local tradition, the church demands compensation for doing what should have been its own civic duty.

But this is, after all, a church that fought the government tooth and nail - and lost a court case last year - to pay HK$180 million in tax on a joint development that turned a Tai Po site into a luxury residential area.

Meanwhile, St James' Settlement is proceeding apace to build a giant headquarters in Kennedy Road, Wan Chai, despite neighbours' objections. These residents may well be selfish, but no more so than the church's own corporate expansion plans.