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Occupy Central

Archbishop's sermon on Occupy Central was 'taken out of context': church

Church says controversial remarks on Occupy were meant as humour, not a public statement

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 July, 2014, 2:22pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 July, 2014, 8:14am

The Hong Kong Anglican Church has spoken for the second time in two days in defence of its top cleric, saying a controversial sermon he delivered on the city's democracy movement was taken out of context.

The archbishop was merely trying to remind fellow Christians of the church's role as a "facilitator of peace", said Reverend Peter Koon, provincial secretary general of the Sheng Kung Hui, or Anglican Church.

It was common for the Most Reverend Dr Paul Kwong to deliver his sermons with a "humorous and witty" flare, Koon told reporters yesterday.

"This sometimes causes laughter in the audience; it may have caused some residents listening to the sermon to become unhappy," he said. "I hope everyone can empathise.

Watch: Church defends Reverend Paul Kwong

"People need to listen to the whole sermon. If you take out snippets, then it may sound like he was mocking."

Koon said the sermon was "not entirely a public event", but for church members, and the recording posted online was for those who were absent.

"We did not intend to make … a public statement," he said.

Kwong was preaching at St Paul's Church in Central on Sunday when he touched on politics, urging the city to keep quiet just as "Jesus remained silent" in the face of crucifixion.

The archbishop also appeared to poke fun at young protesters arrested after a Chater Road sit-in on July 2, who complained they could not eat or use the toilet while in detention. He asked why they did not "bring along their Filipino maids".

Listen: Audio translation of part of a sermon given by Archbishop of HK Anglican Church telling congregants pro-democracy advocates should keep quiet

He also labelled pro-democracy demonstrators as falling victim to a "herd mentality".

Heavy criticism followed. Fellow Anglicans slammed his words as "outrageous", while songwriter Albert Leung called him a hypocrite.

Occupy Central co-organiser Dr Chan Kin-man also said the statements would make people disappointed in the church.

Watch: What do Hongkongers think about Rev. Paul Kwong’s speech against pro-democracy advocates?

On Tuesday, Koon went on RTHK to try to soothe the outcry. Yesterday he said: "I can assure you the archbishop had no intention of lowering any classes or people." The church supported all "peaceful and lawful" expressions of opinion, Koon said, but would persuade members to refrain from taking part in Occupy - which plans to blockade Central if the government does not put forward a plan for universal suffrage offering genuine choice in the 2017 chief executive poll.

Occupy's "extortion" tactics would "make nobody happy", he said. He declined to comment on Kwong's membership of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

Political commentator Ivan Choy Chi-keung said the city was in a sensitive period. "Every political statement someone makes is likely to be scrutinised or attacked more seriously."