HK's new bishop makes his move

Top News | Wallis Wang 18 May 2021

Wallis Wang

Hong Kong Catholics have finally got a new bishop in Wah Yan College supervisor Stephen Chow Sau-yan.

The position has been vacant for two years after Bishop Michael Yeung Ming-cheung died in January 2019.

Pope Francis appointed Chow, a member of the Society of Jesus, as Hong Kong's new bishop, the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong announced yesterday, quoting the Vatican.

Chow, 62, will officially take up office on December 4 this year.

"In view of the arrangements of the Society of Jesus for the appointment of a new Provincial Superior for the Chinese Province, the episcopal consecration of Reverend Stephen Chow will be postponed to December 4, 2021, with details to be announced later," the diocese said.

It added that 81-year-old apostolic administrator John Tong Hon will continue to be the head of the Catholic Diocese until Chow takes office.

Chow was born in Hong Kong in 1959 and was ordained a priest in 1994. He has been the Provincial Superior of the Jesuit Chinese Province since 2018 and is the supervisor of the two campuses of Wah Yan College.

He studied psychology and philosophy at the University of Minnesota and earned a doctorate in education from Harvard University in 2006.

During the anti-fugitive bill protests in 2019, Chow sent letters to students and parents at Wah Yan College, saying schools should not become places to carry out political movements.

"Our school is not a political organization or a platform for political maneuvering from any side," he wrote.

He also said political activities such as class boycotts and political promotions were inappropriate and reminded students of the legal consequences of their behavior.

Chow has also said on Facebook that the young people's appeal to the government was moving, but violent behavior would only make violence escalate and increase the hatred.

"Unfortunately, some people chose to solve the problem with violence, making the original heart of kindness become dark," Chow said.

"Some of the students became restless and their choices had deviated from their original thoughts. Some students even expressed their dissatisfaction with actions that we did not want to see, which made us feel sorry and worried for them," he added.

But he also said sensitive topics such as Hong Kong independence should not be taboo and students need to know why some people believe Hong Kong needs to be independent, which is similar to teaching them about birth control and abortion.

"If we forbid students to talk about all sensitive subjects and all those things become underground, how can we chat with students and accompany them?" he said.

Auxiliary bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing was originally favored by the Vatican to succeed Yeung, but the appointment was reportedly reversed after he actively supported the pro-democracy protests in 2019, which put the Vatican under political pressure.

A church clergyman said Chow is a tactful person who has strong administrative ability and will be able to settle the current internal contradictions in the Hong Kong Catholic diocese.

The clergyman added Chow could ease political confrontations and there will be a "honeymoon period" between the Hong Kong diocese and China after Chow takes office.

Alan Leong Kah-kit, Civic Party chairman and Wah Yan College alumnus, said he had met Chow several times and believes he is an enlightened man.

Leung said Catholics in Hong Kong are now divided and it would be difficult for the bishop but hoped Chow could practice God's love for people with utmost empathy.

Chow represented the Hong Kong Society of Jesus to apply for the land of a former military site at Queen's Hill in Fan Ling to develop a private university in 2011.

But it was decided in 2014 that the land would be used to build residential flats.

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