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Anglican withdrawal from Hong Kong college questioned

Pro-Beijing sentiment suspected behind move, say critics

ucanews.com reporter, Hong Kong

ucanews.com reporter, Hong Kong

Updated: May 20, 2016 08:21 AM GMT
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Anglican withdrawal from Hong Kong college questioned

Anglican Archbishop Paul Kwong of Hong Kong, right, joining a Catholic bishop ordination, Aug. 30, 2014. (ucanews.com file photo)

Young Christians in Hong Kong suspect that pro-Beijing bias is behind the Anglican Church's recent withdrawal from a theology college known for being politically outspoken.

The Anglican Church's decision to cut ties with the Divinity School of Chung Chi College at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, starting from September, is likely to be politically motivated because Anglican Archbishop Paul Kwong is seen to have a pro-Beijing stance, said critics of the move.

The archbishop's past remarks on Hong Kong politics were deemed to favor the government in contrast to those of Chung Chi College, which supported students who participated in class boycotts and street protests during 2014's pro-democracy Umbrella Movement.

"Some students were active in the Umbrella Movement for democracy but the archbishop's speeches or his Christmas message seemed to pick on their involvement," a Chung Chi student who asked not to be named told ucanews.com.

"I think [the Anglican Church's withdrawal from Chung Chi College] is more or less related to politics," said the student.

Adding fuel to the conjecture is the fact that Archbishop Kwong is a member of a top political advisory body for Beijing.

"Archbishop Kwong was appointed a Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference member by Beijing, so his political stand must be pro-Beijing for sure," said Cristiano Tai Lok-hei, a member of St. Francis Action, which was founded by a group of Anglican youth.

While Lok-hei said St. Francis Action doesn't speculate on the how much influence Beijing has had on the decision of the Anglican Church withdrawing from the college, he did said there should be a wide discussion with laypeople about the move.

But according to the Rev. Peter Douglas Koon the decision for the Anglican Church to cut ties with Chung Chi College was administrative.

The Anglican Church has not sponsored the divinity school financially or sent clerical candidates to study there since the 1980s, Koon told the Echo, a weekly Anglican newspaper in Hong Kong.

The church has a "responsibility to focus their effort and resources" on developing their own seminary, Ming Hua Theological College, said Koon.

Though Christian members agreed what the pastor said was true, the move for the Anglican Church to leave Chung Chi College still looks suspicious to critics.

"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," wrote S.C. Yeung for EJ Insight, a Hong Kong economic journal, about the withdrawal.

St. Francis Action has issued an open letter to Archbishop Kwong 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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