Materially opportunistic religious adherents arrived in the region in the wake of European voyages to maritime Asia from the 16th century. Commonly known as “rice Christians”, they have a long and generally distasteful history in Hong Kong, and elsewhere. The term “rice Christians” appears in the writings of William Dampier, an English explorer (and occasional privateer-pirate) who visited Indo-Pacific waters in the late 17th century. Dampier dismissively wrote of the French Catholic priests active at that time in Indochina, opining that “alms of rice have converted more than their preaching”. Even allowing for then-widespread doctrinal animosities between Catholics and Protestants, similar observations could be made throughout much of recent Chinese history, and disturbing examples appear in literature from pre-liberation China. Hosanna and Philomena Wang, the venal professional catechists found in A.J. Cronin’s moving novel The Keys of the Kingdom (1941), partly set in the Chinese interior in the first decades of the 20th century, are noted literary exemplars, and archetypes abound in other works. Nobel Prize laureate Pearl Buck’s memoirs, such as My Several Worlds (1954), and her China-themed novels contain references to rice Christian types found on the fringes of her era’s missionary community. China’s Communists loathed them, and many of them rapidly and publicly jettisoned their religion once Mao Zedong came to power, in 1949. For centuries across Asia, many of those who wished to benefit from education systems with better resources than the norm (as well as improved opportunities for economic advancement later) converted to Christianity, at least notionally and visibly. In these schools, alumni networks were as important as academic excellence, and being a co-religionist made life easier. Such conversions were most widespread among Chinese-diaspora populations, from Malaya to the Philippines and beyond, and in pre-liberation China. By contrast, Indians (unless they were Hindus of such low caste that any religious change would bring them better lives) generally retained their own religion; the same was true of Malays, Javanese and other Muslims. In contemporary Hong Kong, there is no shortage of people who will embrace a religious or political ideology if material benefits can be cadged as a result. If calling themselves Patrick and Grace, and their children Abraham and Mary, combined with regular church attendance, financial donations and generally singing along with the chorus help get the brood into good schools and lucrative careers, what’s the problem? And if those at the top of the church hierarchy cannot distinguish between genuine religious adherence and a second agenda, then more fool them. The Hong Kong government and the local education system, from kindergartens to universities, contain many such individuals, with career progress aided – or, at the least, not significantly harmed – by outward religious affiliation. And their influence spreads far beyond the education sector, even to the formation of local social policy. Publicly expressed attitudes towards LGBT issues, where fundamentalist Christian bigotry contrasts starkly with historically tolerant attitudes to sexuality, are just one example.