Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – For the past few days, dozens of charities and social aid organisations have called for the unfreezing of the bank accounts of the Good Neighbour North District Church so that it can continue to provide social services to the marginalised and the homeless.
At least 100 homeless, staff and social workers are affected by the decision to freeze the Church’s accounts.
On 7 December, the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank (HSBC) froze five bank accounts that belong to the Church on orders of the police. The latter accuse the Church of money laundering and fraud.
According to law enforcement, the Church raised HK$ 27 million (about US$ 3.5 million) between June 2019 and September 2020, but publicly announced raising only one third of that sum.
To make matters worse, one of the Church’s pastors, Roy Chan Hoi-hing, fled Hong Kong to join his family in Great Britain. Although asked to return for questioning, the family is saying that they cannot leave Europe.
The community is convinced that the freezing of accounts is political retaliation for the role the Church played in last year’s pro-democracy demonstrations.
In fact, during the protests against the extradition bill, the Church set up a citizen’s group dubbed ‘Protect the Children’ to stand between protesters and police to curb police violence and mediate between the two sides.
Pastor Chan took part in demonstrations and prayers during the siege of Hong Kong Polytechnic University (picture 2). He and some Church members were arrested and later released on bail.
Some note that donations were never among the income streams requiring itemisation. Moreover, in the past, freezing of assets required collecting sufficient evidence and obtaining authorisation from the Judge of Hong Kong’s High Court.
Under the new national security law, police now have the power to intervene and seize assets without such restraints.
Speaking to Radio Free Asia, Pastor Wu Chi Wai, general secretary of the Hong Kong Church Renewal Movement, said that the move against the Good Neighbour North District Church is a message to all Christian communities to stay out of politics.
Indeed, “Does this mean that more churches will be targeted for political suppression in future,” asks Rev Yuen Tin-Yau, a former chairman of the Hong Kong Christian Council.