The incoming bishop of Hong Kong Stephen Chow on Tuesday said he is not afraid of commenting on controversial political issues, but believes “prudence is also a virtue”, as he sidestepped a number of contentious questions related to Beijing.
Chow was named by Pope Francis as the new leader of the Catholic Church in Hong Kong on Monday, filling a post that has been vacant for the past two years.
And meeting reporters for the first time since his appointment was announced, Chow was pressed on his political stance and whether he thinks Catholics are being suppressed in the mainland.
Chow responded that he didn’t want to use the word “suppression”, adding that he hopes there will be more understanding and harmony.
Asked about the removal of crosses from churches in the mainland, Chow said he was saddened to see it, but needed to learn more about what had happened.
With the incoming bishop choosing his words carefully, reporters asked if it will be his strategy to refrain from commenting on controversial political issues in order to avoid problems.
“I don’t think it’s wise for me to comment on matters, for example, China [that] I don’t quite understand... I don’t have enough information and knowledge,” he said.
“That would be rash. It’s not because I’m afraid. I believe prudence is also a virtue.”
Chow had said during an interview last year that he took part in demonstrations in Hong Kong following the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.
Asked if he would join any commemorations this year, Chow said he wasn’t sure if it will be legal to do so.
“There are different means of commemoration: In the past, I would go and commemorate in the public arena. But there are times I couldn’t go,” he said. “So I pray – I pray for China, I pray for all those who passed in 1989.”
“Whether this year is possible, it depends on the legal requirement.”
Chow revealed to reporters that he initially refused to take up the post as he didn’t feel the call, but was swayed by a letter from Pope Francis.
He added that he didn’t know if his appointment had been approved by Beijing, saying that was a matter between China and the Vatican.