Church does not practise what it preaches with development plans

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 May, 2012, 12:00am

Your articles on the giant advert on the front wall of the Chinese Methodist Church in Wan Chai, 'This city is dying, but God is living', should have taken a more critical look at the church's own failings with regard to issues of civic responsibility and altruism.

I refer to judicial reviews filed when it could not get its own way with regard to increasing the height limits, and therefore the redevelopment potential, of a number of its buildings in Wan Chai and Yau Ma Tei.

The buildings in question are zoned for government, institution and community use, traditionally low rise because of their function and in order to provide some spatial relief and ventilation to the surrounding district.

The church has already done very well for itself by redeveloping, in a joint venture with New World Development, the original low-rise 58-year-old Chinese Methodist Church into a 23-storey building. In a few years, the rights to the upper 13 floors will revert to the church.

In response to complaints from conservationists who opposed the demolition of the Chinese Renaissance-style church in 1994, its minister said: 'We wanted a building that would meet our future needs. We didn't want it to be demolished again in 50 years.'

But now, with dollar signs in its eyes, the church wants to build ever higher. It also wants height restrictions eased on the nearby Wesley Hotel, currently being renovated into deluxe suites.

This is a purely commercial venture masquerading as a community centre and thereby enjoying the tax and other benefits applicable to government institution and community projects.

Part of the ground floor was leased to a liquor store, certainly not in line with the preaching of John Wesley, principal founder of the Methodist movement, who deplored distilled beverages.

The church itself needs to reflect on its message that 'only God matters in our daily lives'. It demonstrates the same greed as the Anglican Church which demanded, and was granted by the Executive Council, compensatory land on Jardine's Lookout in exchange for preserving its historical buildings on Lower Albert Road. Luckily, residents are not enthusiastic and are taking action so plans to build luxury residential units for rent on that road have been delayed.

How can we have an upright society when the very institutions that should provide the moral road map are so busy themselves trying to exploit the system?

Candy Tam, Wan Chai


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