CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Eyebrows raised as Anglicans quit divinity college

Hong Kong (UCAN): The decision by the Anglican Church in Hong Kong (Sheng Kung Hui) to cut ties with the Divinity School of Chung Chi College at the Chinese University of Hong Kong from September has raised a few political eyebrows in religious education circles.

Critics say that what is perceived as a pro-Beijing political stance by Archbishop Paul Kwong, the Anglican archbishop of Hong Kong, may be behind the decision.

The archbishop’s past remarks on Hong Kong politics have been interpreted as pro-government  and it has been noted that he was not supportive of students who joined the Umbrella Movement in 2014, in sharp contrast to the stance taken by Chung Chi College.

“Some students were active in the Umbrella Movement for democracy, but neither the archbishop’s speeches nor his Christmas message seemed to support their involvement,” one student, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.

“I think (the Anglican Church’s withdrawal) is more or less related to politics,” the student added.

Archbishop Kwong is a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, which only helps to stir up more conjecture. 

“Archbishop Kwong was appointed a Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference member by Beijing, so his political stand must be pro-Beijing for sure,” Cristiano Tai Lok-hei, a member of St. Francis Action, which was founded by a group of young Anglican people, commented.

While Tai maintained that the group won’t speculate on how much influence Beijing may have had on the decision of the Anglican Church to withdraw from the college, he did say he believes that there needs to be a wider discussion about the move.

However, the provincial secretary, Reverend Peter Douglas Koon, said that the decision to cut ties with Chung Chi College was administrative.

Koon told the Anglican weekly, the Echo, that the Anglican Church has not sponsored the divinity school financially nor sent clerical candidates to study there since the 1980s.

He said that the Church has a “responsibility to focus its effort and resources” on developing its own seminary, Ming Hua Theological College.

Nevertheless, critics remain suspicious.

“With Kwong being a member of the (Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference) and the Church taking a pro-Beijing stance, one cannot help but speculate that the Anglican Church is trying to differentiate itself from other Christian Churches and denominations which are supportive of the city’s democratic movement, and to show its loyalty to the Communist Party,” S.C. Yeung  wrote in EJ Insight, a Hong Kong economic journal.

St. Francis Action issued an open letter to Archbishop Kwong on May 10 calling for an open discussion on the withdrawal issue to be held in a general meeting at the Church’s provincial general synod in June.

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