Retired Hong Kong priest accused of indecently assaulting at least two church-goers
Police investigation launched as church says it knew of claims years ago but could do nothing as witness would not come forward
Hong Kong police were on Tuesday night looking into claims that a retired Anglican minister indecently assaulted at least two male church-goers more than a decade ago.
This came after the Hong Kong Anglican Church told police of one alleged assault, and a story by online news outlet HK01 disclosed two separate alleged crimes in 2004 and 2007.
The Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui (HKSKH), as the church is known locally, is one of the largest and most influential denominations in the city, with 40,000 followers. It expressed its “deep concern” over the report in a statement on Tuesday.
“To safeguard all parties involved, the HKSKH has made a report to police,” the church said.
The HKSKH confirmed that in November 2007 several church members told the then diocesan general secretary and the archbishop verbally of their concern regarding the conduct of one of its clergymen.
It said that upon inquiries and after consulting the church chancellor, the HKSKH told the members that the alleged victim could bring evidence to substantiate the claims.
It said it was later “informed by those church members that the party involved did not want to proceed further with the matter and the identity of the party involved ... had not been disclosed to the church”.
“As such it was not possible for the church to take any further action,” it said.
The HKSKH said it had always responded seriously to allegations of misconduct against its members, and would deal with the matter in accordance with set procedure.
“If it involves possible criminal activities, the matter will be reported to the police,” it said.
HK01 said it had contacted two alleged male victims, one of whom was a teenager at the time, who claimed they were indecently assaulted separately by a male member of the clergy.
Reverend Peter Koon Ho-ming, provincial secretary general of the Sheng Kung Hui, reported the matter to police at the force’s headquarters in Wan Chai on Tuesday afternoon.
“The informant claimed the report was made after reading a newspaper report. But he failed to [give] the time and location of the incident and who the victim … was,” one police source said, adding that the report was filed for record purposes.
The case was taken as a “request for police investigation”.
Reverend Koon said the case had first been brought to the church’s attention by a group of parishioners years ago. He said leaders in the church, including Archbishop Paul Kwong, knew of the case and had discussed it.
Koon said the clergyman in question had retired long ago. The church believed there was one suspected victim, despite the media report saying there were two, he said.
He said one of the suspected victims, who did not approach the church, also told parishioners that he did not want to pursue the matter at that time.
He said the church realised, after seeking legal advice, that it could do nothing, not even report the matter to police, as long as the alleged victim was not there, as officers would not accept hearsay. He said the parishioners agreed with that.
Koon said the church had not intended to cover up the case.
“How could it be possible for this to be covered up for a decade?” Koon asked. “And we were not that stupid trying to cover up things like that because cases involving sexual elements have to be handled impartially. But if we didn’t have [more information], we couldn’t do anything.”
He said he reported the matter to police on Tuesday, hours after the report was published, because the suspected victim had spoken to the media.
“I will definitely encourage the suspected victim to approach police,” Koon said, adding that the church would urge other suspected victims to reach out.