China: Hong Kong

China: Hong Kong
   Under British rule from the mid-1800s, Hong Kong was returned to the People's Republic of China in 1997. It now exists as a Special Administrative Region and as such operates under Hong Kong Basic Law regarding religion. Hong Kong possesses a high degree of religious freedom, and because of its strategic location has become the point of dissemination of many religious groups, including Protestant and Free Churches. Buddhism and traditional Chinese religion remain the dominant religious forces among the population.
   When the British took control of Hong Kong in 1841, Anglicanism in the form of the Church OF ENGLAND was established. An initial chapel was erected and opened for worship the next year. In 1849, the first bishop, George Smith, was consecrated. The work was integrated into the larger field of missionary endeavor in China and Japan. The Anglican diocese survived 20th-century turmoils, but it was not attached to any provincial structure. In 1997, as the governmental changeover became imminent, the new Province of Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui (aka the Anglican Church of Hong Kong and Macau) was created with three dioceses and a missionary area (Macau). The Anglican Church remains one of the larger Protestant groups in Hong Kong.
   As Hong Kong grew through the 19th century, other churches - the Methodists, Baptists, Congre-gationalists, Presbyterians - arrived and established congregations. The American Baptists actually erected their building before the first Anglican church was completed, and the Congregationalists (represented through the London Missionary Society [LMS]) followed quickly. James Legge (1815-97), a prominent LMS minister/scholar, opened a school in 1843. He played an important role in the development of public education. Those groups that arrived during the first generation of British rule were assisted by government land grants and even some financial assistance, but that came to an end in 1881.
   The older Protestant churches controlled Christian religious life in the years prior to World War II. The Baptist Convention of Hong Kong has survived as the largest Protestant body, and the only one with more than 50,000 members. The Hong Kong Council of the Church of Christ in China (which continues the Presbyterian and Congregationalist churches), the Methodists, and the Lutherans also retain a substantial following. More recently, they have been joined by the Christian and Missionary Alliance, which began work in Hong Kong in 1933 and now reports more than 30,000 adherents.
   Since 1950, Protestantism has grown both by migration from mainland China (bringing several indigenous Christian groups) and by the establishment of more than 100 new missionary works. Among the indigenous groups now established in Hong Kong are the True Jesus Church (a non-Trinitarian Pentecostal body) and the Local CHuRCH founded by Watchman NEE (which in Hong Kong has given birth to several additional groups). Among the more interesting of the new groups is the Spiritual Bread Worldwide Evangelical Mission, which grew out of the Local Church in the 1950s, and has become a global body with members in more than 20 countries.
   The older liberal Protestant groups have affiliated in the Hong Kong Christian Council (aligned with the World Council of Churches), and some of the more conservative churches and organizations have come together in the Hong Kong Chinese Christian Church Union. The Christian Conference of Asia, which coordinates those national ecumenical councils in Asia related to the World Council of Churches, is headquartered in Hong Kong.
   The Seventh-day Adventist Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the Jehovah's Witnesses have been active in Hong Kong, the former two reporting some 10,000 members each, and the latter around 2,500.
   Though a minority community, Protestants view Hong Kong as extremely important. It symbolizes a hoped-for return to religious freedom in China as a whole, and it has become an organizational center and a launching pad for many missionary-minded outreach efforts both inside China and throughout southeast Asia.
   See also Asia; China.
   Further reading:
   ■ Gail V Coulson with Christopher Herlinger and Camille S. Anders, The Enduring Church: Christians in China and Hong Kong (New York: Friendship Press, 1996)
   ■ G. B. Endacott, A History of Hong Kong (New York: Oxford University Press, 1973)
   ■ Nai-wang Kwok, Hong Kong 1997: a Christian Perspective (Kowloon: Christian Conference of Asia, 1991).

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. . 2005.

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