(Hong Kong) On the National Day of the People’s Republic of China (October 1), Five-Star Red Flags cover various roads, pedestrian overpasses, and shopping mall exteriors across Hong Kong. This year, the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Evangelist, otherwise known as St. John’s Cathedral, displayed China’s national flag on the altar for the first time. This alarming new development has sparked debate.
Love the Party
The current political system in China adopts a combination of party and state governance. Since 1949, China has been under one-party rule without an alternative political party. Except for a few nominal political parties, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) does not permit any ideology independent of itself. In the eyes of the CCP, the party is the state, and the country is the state. They are inseparable. Loving the party is equivalent to loving the state, and loving the state is loving the party.
When the Christian church displays the national flag of the People’s Republic of China in sacred spaces, it signifies loving the state and the Communist Party, an atheistic political party.
The Flag Debate
The beliefs and doctrines of Christianity significantly differ from the political ideologies of any political party. Displaying the Five-Star Red Flag on the church pulpit signifies an endorsement of its political party’s ideologies, which contradict the Christian faith. It’s not simply expressing patriotism.
The First instance
Hong Kong’s Christian Times reported that on the morning of October 1st, the St. John’s Cathedral of Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui held a Mandarin-language communion service with the flag of the People’s Republic of China displayed on the pulpit. This marked the first time in the history of St. John’s Cathedral that the Five-Star Red Flag was displayed inside the church.
On October 1st, the sermon was delivered by Rev. Canon Peter Douglas Koon Ho-ming, BBS, an Anglican priest who also serves as a member of the Legislative Council. He stated that placing the national flag during worship is a normal practice, just that Hong Kong believers are sensitive about it.
The reason for placing the national flag during worship is that the church has always hoped to be more expressive on National Day. Displaying the flag on a day of prayer for the country is considered a very normal practice, Rev. Canon Peter Douglas Koon Ho-ming expressed.
In this sermon filled with strong political rhetoric aligning with Beijing’s ideology, Rev. Canon Peter Douglas Koon Ho-ming pointed out that many people had doubts about displaying the national flag. He believes it reflects the identity crisis Hong Kong is facing today.
Hong Kongers Weigh in
Reports from Hong Kong’s Christian Times stated, that there was a believer who attended worship who felt uncertain whether Rev. Canon Peter Douglas Koon Ho-ming’s sermon came from the Bible. Another participant expressed that it appeared to rationalize the placement of the national flag on the pulpit.
The placement of the red flag, tainted with the blood of millions of innocent Chinese people, on the altar of the St. John’s Cathedral in Hong Kong has sparked significant debate among Hong Kong believers. It is also seen as a direct mockery of a merciful God.
The CCP and the Anglican Church
The Anglican Church is the official church of England, but the Communist Party is an explicitly atheistic political party that remains vigilant towards all religions and religious organizations, including Christianity. Interactions between the Anglican Church and England are reasonable and legal. However, it is disturbing that the Hong Kong Anglican Church is expressing political messages to Beijing during worship.
In 2005, Rev. Canon Peter Douglas Koon Ho-ming was ordained as a pastor in 2005 and was promoted to the provincial Secretary-General of the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui in 2007. In 2013, he, along with Paul Kwong, faced criticism for opposing the pro-democracy “Umbrella Movement.” In 2015, he used the analogy of a cat and its owner to describe the relationship between the central government and Hong Kong. He suggested that Hong Kong people needed to behave reassuringly for the central government to loosen its policies towards Hong Kong.
A pro-Communist reverend in a leadership position implies that the CCP can easily extend its influence over Hong Kong’s religious affairs. Management will become stricter, leading to increasingly obvious oppression of genuine religious beliefs.
~Gao Zhensai, Special Correspondent of ChinaAid