Hong Kong’s Catholic diocese blocks ad campaign calling for democracy

2020.08.29

Hong Kong’s Catholic diocese has rejected a proposal for an ad campaign calling for democracy in the city, with some critics blaming Cardinal John Tong for cracking down on progressive views.

The Justice and Peace Commission of Hong Kong Catholic Diocese, which was seeking donations to buy ad space in newspapers, said in a statement on Saturday that the campaign had been cancelled at the request of its parent organization.

“The diocese was informed of our plans yesterday...The diocese said it supports devotees who want to pray for Hong Kong, but does not support our crowdfunding methods and the content of our advertisement,” the commission said.

An outspoken group under the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong, the commission said its plan was “to run advertisements in newspapers that pray for the democratic development of Hong Kong after the implementation of the national security law.”

Cardinal John Tong was “curtailing the autonomy” of the commission in response to complaints from “powerful and influential” churchgoers with pro-Beijing loyalties, a source at the diocese told Apple Daily.

Tong — who leads the church in an administrative role after the death of Bishop Michael Yeung in 2019 — was also responsible for a redesign of the church’s magazine that sidelined content provided by the commission, the source added.

The commission ran an ad last June urging G20 nations to pay attention to the situation in Hong Kong and to pray for its residents. That ad also demanded that the Hong Kong government withdraw the extradition bill, retract their statement calling protesters “rioters,” and to set up a commission of inquiry to investigate the June 12 clashes outside the government headquarters.

In June, the commission was also a signatory on a joint petition addressed to the head of China’s top lawmaking body, warning Beijing against imposing a national security law in Hong Kong.

Separately, Tong issued a letter to clergy on Friday criticizing pastors who discussed political views during sermons, saying that their words were “offensive and defamatory” and would “incite hate and social upheaval.”

A group of churchgoers said on Saturday that they were planning to raise money on their own so the ad campaign can go ahead as planned.

Some also criticized the diocese’s decision on social media, with one user saying: “Does the church serve God or the Communist Party? How can we be God’s witnesses if we don’t voice our opinions on right and wrong?”

Apple Daily has contacted the Catholic diocese for comment.

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