The Vatican has approved Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun's wish to step down as the leader of the Hong Kong Catholic diocese. From the perspective of free speech, his often fierce criticism will be sorely missed. We will not, however, lament the passing of the dogged manner in which he too often delivered his messages. Cardinal Zen's outspokenness on human rights, political freedom and religious liberty has been, to some people, brave. There is nothing wrong with a religious leader having staunch opinions on such issues. No matter what our community standing, our right to free speech has to be upheld and cherished. But the church leader has exploited his position for questionable causes. He rightly expounds greater freedom for the Catholic Church on the mainland, for example. In the same breath, though, he stubbornly fights for total church control in the running of Catholic schools in Hong Kong, even though they are fully funded by taxpayers' money. He objects to the inclusion of parents, teachers and alumni representatives on school councils as a means of enhancing community participation in the management of public schools. This is despite legislative provisions guaranteeing the church majority control of the council's membership. In 2005, he called on Catholics to take to the streets to oppose the government's proposals for political reform and criticised the police for mishandling the South Korean protesters who disrupted the World Trade Organisation meeting. After some clerics spoke out against him, they were duly told in an editorial of the church's official publication to obey his commands. Leaders represent the people they serve. It is for backing causes that do not necessarily have the support of a majority of Catholics in Hong Kong that Cardinal Zen has been a controversial figure. This is a lesson his anointed successor, Bishop John Tong Hon, must take to heart when he assumes his duties. His standing will be determined by the issues over which he opts to pick a fight and the manner in which he leads the battle.