Hong Kong archbishop pleads for action on poverty in Christmas message

Paul Kwong says ‘strategic and creative policies’, as well as acts of kindness among residents, needed to address the problem

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 December, 2017, 6:47am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 December, 2017, 4:02pm

The head of the Anglican Church in Hong Kong has urged the government and residents to address the city’s poverty problem with “strategic and creative policies” and acts of care.

Archbishop of Hong Kong the Most Reverend Paul Kwong focused on poverty in his Christmas message this year, in sharp contrast to his annual statements from 2012 to last year, in which he lamented the city’s political divisions and touched on other sensitive issues.

Last year he warned of a “breakdown of social values” revealed by Hong Kong independence advocacy and the controversy in the city’s legislature over spoiled oaths of office. In 2015, Kwong addressed political divisions over democratic reform.

Separately, Bishop of Hong Kong Michael Yeung Ming-cheung, leader of the city’s 389,000 Catholics, acknowledged in his maiden Christmas message that it is “a great challenge” for Hong Kong’s younger generation to establish a family.

On the political front, a contentious atmosphere has persisted in the Legislative Council since Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor took office in July, with opposition lawmakers wrangling with their rivals over proposed changes to the chamber’s rule book to curb the opposition camp’s filibustering.

On top of that, three prominent young democracy activists were jailed in the summer over their role in an unlawful public assembly in the run-up to the 2014 Occupy protests, which shut down major roads in Hong Kong for 79 days as demonstrators called for democratic reforms.

But neither Kwong nor Yeung mentioned any of that in their messages this year.

Instead, Kwong started by pointing out that “giving and sharing” were at the core of the Christmas spirit.

“The government … recently released a report saying that 1.35 million people lived in poverty, the highest figure since 2009,” he said, citing a Hong Kong Poverty Situation report released last month.

“As we celebrate Christmas in high spirits, the poor in our midst might sigh and ask: ‘What does Christmas have to do with me?’”

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Kwong described poverty and an ageing population as “two sides of the same problem”, and said it would “require the common efforts and determination of all Hong Kong people if we are to resolve” it.

“The government should develop strategic and creative policies to address the problem, but each citizen should also live out the Christmas spirit of giving by doing their best to take care of those who are in need,” he said. “Even a simple word of love and care may bring a miracle to others.”

Kwong said that “if we refuse the opportunity to give and share, we may also lose the opportunity to receive”.

Hong Kong has a Protestant congregation of about 500,000. The Anglican Church, known locally as the Sheng Kung Hui, has up to 40,000 followers and is one of the most influential denominations in the city.

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In his Christmas message, Yeung focused on the topic of family, which he described as “the cradle of life and love, the place of birth and growth”.

He suggested that Jesus’ birth, or nativity, is a story about a family facing “shared difficulties and tests”.

Yeung added: “I know what a great challenge it is for our younger generation, especially in today’s Hong Kong, to establish a family.”

He also wished that every family could be built on “the love of Christ”, so that it “can face the difficulties and tests of life with sustained hope and confidence”.

In his final Christmas message a year ago, Cardinal John Tong Hon also described family as “the most basic building block of a healthy society”, and urged “grown-ups … to listen when our young people are voicing out their thoughts”.