Like Hong Kong itself, the local Catholic community is deeply divided. It’s no accident that dissident media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, now in jail, and Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, are both devout Catholics. The 404,000-strong diocese had been without an official leader for more than two years after the unexpected death of Bishop Michael Yeung Ming-cheung in early 2019 – until now. Stephen Chow Sau-yan, the newly appointed bishop and a Jesuit, is considered a moderate, indeed politically neutral. While he doesn’t please many people, he is not upsetting them enough with a tilted political stance one way or another. It has been hard to find a replacement. The two most senior candidates both carry heavy political baggage that makes them controversial to one side or the other. At one point, the Vatican was close to choosing the Reverend Peter Choy Wai-man as the new bishop. The pope wants to establish diplomatic relations with China, and Choy would have been a good envoy. But that also doomed Choy’s chance to the top local post, as he was considered too friendly with Beijing and was firmly opposed by the anti-communist camp among local Catholics. Led by outspoken retired bishop Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, they favoured auxiliary Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing, who had expressed support for protesters and student activists during the 2014 anti-government “umbrella” movement. Making Ha the new bishop in 2019 would have been incendiary as Hong Kong was then embroiled in the most violent unrest since the 1967 riots. Instead, the Vatican pulled Cardinal John Tong Hon out of retirement, who was head of the local church from 2009 to 2017, to serve as acting head of the diocese. Vatican appoints Stephen Chow as new bishop of Hong Kong Chow may be exactly what the Vatican needs in Hong Kong, judging by his first “meet-the-press” conference since appointment. He gave anodyne answers, such as offering sympathy, empathy and reconciliation for society, especially young people. He says he seeks “unity [which] is plurality and we need to respect plurality”. He had previously attended the annual June 4 Tiananmen commemoration, but would not say whether he would go this year. He said he was not happy seeing crosses pulled down from unauthorised churches on the mainland, but pledged ignorance about details and declined to use the word “crackdown”. The Vatican looks to have hit pay dirt with Chow.