Bishop Michael Yeung, the head of Hong Kong’s Catholic church, has died at the age of 73.

He was hospitalised last week and died on Thursday.

Michael Yeung
Michael Yeung delivering the 2018 Christmas Greetings. Photo: Catholic Diocese.

Yeung was admitted to Canossa (Caritas) Hospital on December 27 to treat cirrhosis of the liver, which led to liver failure. His condition deteriorated on Wednesday. He died at 1:30pm Thursday.

Yeung became head of the Catholic Church in Hong Kong in August 2017, succeeding John Tong.

A vigil mass will be held on next Thursday night. A funeral mass will held on next Friday morning, before Yeung will be buried at St. Michael’s Catholic Cemetery, Happy Valley.

It is uncertain as to whether Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Ha, 59, seen as a liberal figure in the church, will become Yeung’s successor.

Yeung was born in Shanghai in 1945 and moved to Hong Kong when he was four. He was ordained in 1978.

Yeung’s public remarks have often sparked controversies. Yeung was criticised for comparing homosexuality to drug addiction, but he claimed that he was misquoted by the media.

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Yeung had also defended a controversial pastoral letter in which John Tong urged believers to choose candidates in the 2015 District Council elections based on their stances on the values of marriage and the family, and on the proposal to enact a Sexual Orientation Discrimination Ordinance.

Two months before the pro-democracy Occupy protests in 2014, Yeung said the church would not encourage or stop Catholics from joining the protests, but it would offer help to believers arrested for protesting.

Yeung had said Hong Kong independence would be absolutely impossible, and that he was of Chinese blood and he loved Chinese culture, and would never deny that he was Chinese.

Michael Yeung
Michael Yeung. Photo: HKFP/Kris Cheng.

He also said that he was willing to serve as a bridge between the Vatican and the mainland.

When he was appointed bishop, he said that the forced removal of crosses in China may be down to issues with the safety of buildings.

In June last year, Bernardo Cervellera, the director of Vatican news publication AsiaNews, wrote in a report that Yeung had asked Pope Francis to approve his resignation as bishop. Yeung reportedly wanted to dedicate himself to the Catholic welfare agency Caritas. Yeung then denied through the local Catholic paper that he had resigned.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng

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.