RELIGION
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Occupy Central

Top Anglican official in Hong Kong defends multi-million dollar flat and past comments critical of Occupy protesters

In rare interview, Most Reverend Paul Kwong explains to Post his comments generating media attention two years ago and today

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 March, 2016, 8:31pm
UPDATED : Monday, 28 March, 2016, 9:14pm

The archbishop of Hong Kong’s Anglican Church lives in a luxury apartment on scenic Tai Tam Bay and sits on China’s top political advisory body, but he said it was “a loving and caring heart” that defined a Christian leader, not anything else.

In a rare interview, Most Reverend Paul Kwong spoke with the Post on questions raised in the media about his political stances and why he resided at upscale Pacific View complex on Tai Tam Road. It was reported that the apartment cost the church HK$13.4 million in 2006. The latest public records involving Pacific View flats indicated transactions in recent months ranging from HK$19 million to HK$38 million.

When asked why he did not follow his predecessors’ example of staying at Bishop House in Central, Kwong said the building, built in 1851, was too spacious for an unmarried bishop like him.

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“Bishop House has two storeys and a basement. It’s nearly 20,000 square feet,” he said. “Was it more luxurious for me to live there on my own or in a flat?”

Kwong said a committee of the church decided to buy the flat as the church was planning to build new buildings, including a hospital, near Bishop House.

Apart from discussing his living arrangement, Kwong spoke publicly for the first time about a political storm he triggered nearly two years ago.

In July 2014, Kwong talked about “peace of mind” in a sermon and questioned why Hongkongers “speak up so much”. He asked at the time why protesters who complained about being denied water after they were arrested at a sit-in in Central did not “bring along their Filipino maids”.

Kwong later apologised for the disturbances his remarks brought to the church and its churchgoers, who numbered as high as 40,000 by his estimate. But he told the Post he had no other regrets.

“Hong Kong is a divided society,” he said. “Remarks that please the ears were regarded as dicta, while those that were displeasing were taken as being misspoken.”

“I love our young people, and it saddened me when they did not think about the consequences of their actions.”

Kwong’s sermon in 2014 renewed a debate over whether Christians should criticise the government. Reverend Chu Yiu-ming, for example, was a co-founder of the pro-democracy Occupy campaign.

Reverend Paul Kwong tells congregation that pro-democracy advocates should keep quiet

On this point Kwong said what was “most important” was to have “a loving and caring heart for all, regardless of political view and age”. He added: “And love comes with rebuke as well.”

Kwong had said that his appointment to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in 2013 did not affect his views.

He told the Post that during the CPPCC’s annual session in Beijing this month, he criticised Zhejiang authorities’ campaign to remove church crosses that were deemed to violate building rules.

“The message I got was that Beijing’s policy on religious freedom has not changed, but there were problems with implementation at the regional level,” Kwong said. He added he was convinced mainland authorities were not cracking down on religion.

Kwong, 65, has been the city’s archbishop of the Anglican Church since 2007. He said if his health allowed, he would stay in his post until his retirement at 70.