At just 40,000 adherents, the Anglican Province of Hong Kong punches above its weight as a contributor to well-being of residents in the territory. It runs 133 Anglican schools and is the third-largest provider of social welfare services in Hong Kong.

Its latest initiative is a plan to build a 25-story private hospital on part of the site occupied by Bishop’s House. Critics of the church say this project shows the church is more interested in property than matters of faith.

Plans have been forming since February 2017. The seven-story Hong Kong Central Hospital stood on the site until September 2012. Ridley House and Alford House, formerly home to some church employees, also stand empty.

At the helm of many of the diocesan property projects is the Rev. Canon Peter Koon Ho-ming, provincial secretary general of the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui. Before ordination he worked in a family property company based in Shanghai. “Now I develop the Kingdom of God,” Koon told the South China Morning Post.

The church sought the closure of the former hospital because a large number of abortions were carried out there. “If the abortion is not necessary on purely medical reasons, we object,” he told the Post.

The planned high-rise hospital has a projected floor area of 46,659 square meters, with 90 parking spaces, 293 beds, and 12 operating theaters. The heritage-listed Bishop’s House, St. Paul’s Church, and the Church Guest House would be preserved — but critics point out the new edifice would tower over them.

“The church just wants to do something good for society — there is a lot of misunderstanding,” Koon said. The hospital, he said, would operate as a non-profit agency and subsidies will be sought for patients who cannot afford treatment.

The church has been at the heart of the Hong Kong establishment for 170 years. It worked closely with the British colonial government. The first chaplain, the Rev. Vincent Stanton, secured a prime parcel of property and founded St. John’s Cathedral in 1849 and a school, St. Paul’s College, in 1851. It is now part of a heritage site in the heart of Hong Kong and began a 999-year lease granted in Victorian times.

Hong Kong ordained the Anglican Communion’s first woman in the priesthood in 1944. Florence Li Tim-Oi was a deaconess stationed in the territory of Macau, which was cut off from the outside world by Japanese forces. Thought he was not a campaigner for women in the priesthood, Bishop R.O. Hall decided the only way to provide eucharistic ministry in Macau was to ordain Li Tim-Oi.

British rule in Hong Kong ended in 1997 and the territory reverted to Chinese control. There was an agreement that while Hong Kong would form part of a singular country, it would retain the existing economic and political template of “One country, two systems.”

John Martin

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