The Catholic Church in Hong Kong has slammed chief executive candidate Carrie Lam over her pledge to study the possibility of launching a “religious affairs unit” to coordinate religious policies.

The idea received opposition among Christian groups and election committee members. Lam, a Catholic herself, then told Ming Pao in an interview that the proposal could be abandoned or put aside after the study is completed.

The Diocese said Lam’s reply “will definitely arouse local Christians to have concerns over freedom of religion in Hong Kong.” It urged Lam to remove the relevant points in her manifesto, with Cardinal John Tong writing a letter to Lam on Thursday expressing the Diocese’s “resolute opposition.”

Carrie Lam
Carrie Lam. Photo:

It said there was an article on “religious policy” in the 1986 draft of the Basic Law, but the article was removed after strong opposition from drafters in the religious sector in order to avoid restrictions over religion in the city.

The Diocese said that the suggestion of setting up a special government unit could easily give people an impression that the government is directing and controlling religion.

“This will certainly create unnecessary confusion and conflicts in society,” it said.

‘Smooth’ interaction

It said the interactions between the government and all religions in Hong Kong has generally been very harmonious and smooth, without any communication difficulties.

“All religions continue to render numerous social services, to participate in the construction of a civic society, and to build up a collaborative relationship with the local government. As all the existing interactive mechanisms are effective, it is not necessary to change them in an indiscreet manner,” it said.

john tong
Cardinal John Tong. File photo: Hkdavc, via YouTube.

The Diocese also warned of the existence of similar units or departments on the mainland, and how the atheist communist government used them to gather information on religious groups.

“However, in the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong, government officials have sufficient channels to contact religions directly, without any need to have such a ‘religious affairs unit’ or department for contacts.”

Before Lam resigned as the chief secretary to run for chief executive, she said at a government internal conference that God called upon her to join the race.

Lam received 38 nominations from the 60-member religious sector of the election committee from different religions, but none of the ten Catholic members nominated her. Of the ten, two nominated rival John Tsang and one chose Woo Kwok-hing. Seven did not nominate anyone.

In November last year, Lam said at a Catholic charity event that she believed there is already a place for her reserved in heaven.

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.