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A sinner needs more care than the righteous

I believe that Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, like the Prodigal, regrets his misdeed

A sinner needs more care than the righteous

Former Hong Kong chief executive Donald Tsang walks toward his car from the High Court after the jury found him guilty of misconduct in his high-profile corruption trial, in Hong Kong on Feb. 17. Tsang, 72, is the most senior city official ever to be convicted in a criminal trial, at a time when residents are losing faith in Hong Kong's leaders, as a string of prominent corruption cases fuel public suspicions over cosy links between authorities and business leaders. (Photo by Anthony Wallace/AFP)

Sin Tsz, Hong Kong
Hong Kong

March 9, 2017

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Just before Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, the former chief executive of Hong Kong, was found guilty of misconduct in public office and sentenced to 20 months imprisonment, he wrote an article reflecting on the ordeals he had gone through during five years of investigations and trials.

In times of challenges, fervent Catholics pray for God's blessings, seek His will or offer thanks for His guidance. I think Tsang, who is publicly known for attending Mass almost every day, would do the same.

In his article written for AM730, a free tablet in Hong Kong, Tsang cited Reinhold Niebuhr's "Serenity Prayer." It showed there has been reflection and prayers made for a serene soul.

Five years ago, I wrote an article complaining about Tsang when the allegations of corruption came to the light. I was angry by his alleged deeds of obtaining petty advantages, which betrayed the trust of the Hong Kong people.

In considering how Tsang adhered to his faith and entrusted everything to God all through the five years have changed my views on him. I believe he has awakened.

But now on social media, I see other people and even Catholics don't think the same. When they learned that Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, the bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, intended to hold a Mass for Tsang when he visited him in hospital, these people asked "why say Mass for a person who does not feel remorseful for what he has done?"

Such comments lead me to reflect. How many people really repent in an ordinary Mass? If no one repents, does it mean a priest needs not say Mass for his flock?

And how do we know that Tsang did not repent at all?

Some media reported that Tsang cried out aloud in front of the cardinal. Though I could not verify the reason for his crying, it reminds me about the biblical Parable of the Prodigal Son.

The prodigal son regretted what he had done. While he returned to his father's place, he said, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you."

It also reminded me another episode in the Gospel: Jesus heard the Pharisees asking his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" Jesus told them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick… For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

Yes, we need pastors to walk with us sinners and those who are spiritually poor. Saints probably do not need such pastoral care.

The cardinal, who makes regular visit to prisoners, visited Tsang not because of his special status as a former government official and not to say he is now a disgraced one. Once, Cardinal Zen used to be critical of Tsang when he was the chief executive. One example in 2005 was that when Cardinal Zen was the main bishop of Hong Kong, he rigorously criticized political reform tabled by Tsang that offered no direction or timetable, and thus was not worthy for supporting. The cardinal even appealed to Catholics to join a rally against political reform.

But when Tsang was put on trial, the cardinal wrote for him a letter of mitigation, hoping the judge would handle the case leniently and not to throw a 72-year-old man into jail.

After Tsang's conviction, the cardinal, who had just returned from an overseas trip, dragged his tired body to visit Tsang in hospital where he was being held after complaining of breathing problems the same evening after his conviction.

News images showed the tired face of the elderly cardinal sitting on a bench waiting for his turn to see Tsang. He did not abandon his flock in time of difficulty just because they used to have different political views.

It is true as the Chinese proverb: "It is easy to put icing on cakes but difficult to send coal in snowy weather."

I think the episode of the hospital visit was a perfect manifestation of what mercy is. 

Sin Tsz is the pseudonym of a Catholic Church worker in Hong Kong.

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