The Catholic Church’s Cardinal and Bishop of Hong Kong John Tong has urged believers in a pastoral letter to choose candidates in the upcoming elections based on their stances on the values of marriage and the family, and on the proposal to enact a Sexual Orientation Discrimination Ordinance (SODO).

The pastoral letter by Tong was published on Thursday, ahead of the Hong Kong Pride Parade on Saturday which advocates for equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people (LGBT) as well as anti-discrimination legislation. The District Council election will take place on November 22.

Tong urged parish priests, pastoral workers and members of parish councils to make an urgent announcement on his behalf through parish newsletters, notice boards, Facebook. He also asked for his message to be read out during Sunday masses.

John Tong.
John Tong. Photo: Wikicommons/HKFP.

“In recent years social trends and political movements, such as extreme libertarian attitudes, individualism, the ‘Sex Liberation Movement’ and the ‘Gay Movement’, under the guise of equality and the fight against discrimination, have all along been advocating the enactment of a Sexual Orientation Discrimination Ordinance in Hong Kong and the recognition of same-sex marriages.”

“Thereby, the core values and key concepts of marriage and of the family are continually being challenged and misinterpreted, so that the very foundation of society is being undermined.” Tong said.

Tong also criticised a “Workshop on Love-making Techniques” recently held by a Christian students’ organisation at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, though he did not name the group.

“[The] programme included a demonstration by sex workers of the use of sex toys and erotic massage. It is evident, therefore, that the virtual propagation of sexual liberalization under the umbrella of academic freedom, as a misguided culture, is no longer implicitly, but publicly and, so to say, pompously, intruding on our daily life and directly affecting our next generation.”

The pastoral letter by John Tong.
The pastoral letter by John Tong.

Tong spoke about the SODO, which has been discussed in Hong Kong since the 1990s, but has yet to be signed into law.

“This social trend could even go one step further by enacting the Sexual Orientation Discrimination Ordinance (SODO) and recognizing same-sex marriages, and/or by similar legislation or judicial precedents. This would force our society into undergoing a change that would turn it upside-down.”

Thus, Tong urged believers to choose candidates based on their stances on the issues to uphold marriage and the family as the foundation of society.

“Since we are in such a critical situation, I urge our faithful to play an active role as the ‘salt of the earth’ and the ‘light of the world’, by taking into due consideration, in the upcoming 2015 District Council Ordinary Election and other Elections in the future, the stance of each candidate and that of the political party he / she might belong to with regard to the core values of marriage and the family, and the proposal to enact SODO.”

The banner of the Hong Kong pride parade on November 7.
The banner of the Hong Kong pride parade on November 7.

‘A big joke’

Openly gay lawmaker Ray Chan Chi-chuen said that Pope Francis had said people should not marginalise and judge gay people.

He told Apple Daily that the letter “is a big international joke.”

Chan questioned why Tong did not say much about the destruction of churches in China but decided to make an urgent call against gay people: “So in their eyes, we are even more horrible than the Communist Party; Hong Kong have seen a lot of unfairness, did the church say anything?”

He urged voters to vote for candidates based on their performance, but not religious views.

Jimmy Sham Tsz-kit, spokesperson of Rainbow Action which is organiser of the pride parade on Saturday, told the newspaper that he was shocked by the letter.

He stressed that legalisation of the SODO would not legalise same-sex marriage. He said there is a lot of unfairness in society, that John Tong should not only care about family values and ignore issues such as democracy and universal suffrage, which he said are also core values of Hong Kong.

Lawmaker Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, who is against same-sex marriage, told Stand News that “some people believe that family is important to children’s development, and I have always talked about traditional family values.”

“Everyone has freedom of speech and religious freedom, so the Cardinal has his freedom of expression, and everyone can say things according to their beliefs,” she added, ”I hope people can respect different opinions from people of different beliefs.”

HKFP has reached out to the Equal Opportunities Commission for comments.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.