Who is the outspoken Hong Kong priest who left a property career to fight for justice?
Anglican cleric describes has family’s past suffering and city’s present debates
In the eyes of his critics, Reverend Peter Koon Ho-ming is an outspoken cleric who has gladly embraced the Communist Party as if it is a benevolent master over Hong Kong.
But the 51-year-old provincial secretary general of the local Anglican church said his detractors have it all wrong. Not only were his uncles purged during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s, Koon said, he wept and felt betrayed as he saw the Union flag come down on June 30, 1997 – the night the British government handed the city over to Chinese leadership.
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“Tears flowed down my cheeks when the British flag came down ... and I felt uneasy when the Chinese flag was raised,” Koon told the Post, referring to the handover ceremony in Wan Chai.
He was not in Hong Kong on that historic night nor was he a priest at the time, instead in his ninth year working for a mainland property developer in Shanghai.
Koon claimed his grandfather was a prominent banker in Shanghai in the 1920s and 1930s, and, because of his family’s background, his uncles were purged during the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976. During that turbulent period, millions of intellectuals and capitalists were persecuted, tortured or even killed.
“I’m more qualified than many others to talk about suffering and the loss of family property,” he said. “But why were victimised families like mine less vigorous in opposition?”
“As a religious leader, we don’t want to see turmoil in our country ... We ought to do our utmost in negotiating with authorities to achieve fairness, justice and harmony.”
Koon added he was impressed by China’s economic progress since 1979, especially when he worked in property for 12 years from 1988.
He was ordained a priest in 2005. Two years later, he became the church’s provincial secretary general, overseeing the denomination’s development projects and social services.
Since 2013, Koon has engaged in Hong Kong’s political debates. Koon and Anglican archbishop Paul Kwong drew flak for opposing the pro-democracy Occupy civil disobedience movement, co-founded by University of Hong Kong instructor Benny Tai Yiu-ting based on Christian principles of love and peace.
In 2014, Koon became an adviser for Our Hong Kong Foundation, a think tank founded by former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa.
A year later, the priest faced a barrage of criticism when he suggested Hongkongers should “behave because a cat would be granted more freedom by its master for good conduct”.
He clarified to the Post that all he wanted to say was that it was important for Hong Kong and Beijing to communicate with and trust each other.
“I am a Hongkonger 100 per cent, and I hope to obtain the biggest benefit for this place, but I think we need to be more rational to achieve that goal.”