How many Christians live in Hong Kong?

China
by June Cheng
Posted 10/30/14, 03:30 pm

After my last article, “Decisive Moment,” some readers questioned this line: “Christians make up about one-fifth of Hong Kong’s population.” Hong Kong officially pegs the number of combined Protestants and Catholics around 10 percent. But territory-wide studies done by the Divinity School of Chung Chi College (DSCCC) and Hong Kong Baptist University reveal the number is closer to 20 percent.

In 2009, DSCCC professor Francis Yip conducted a phone survey to explore Hong Kong residents’ perception of Christianity in society. Of the 2,002 people polled, 5.6 percent identified as Roman Catholic, while 18.7 percent identified as Protestant. A 2012 DSCCC report on media consumption found that of the 1,505 respondents, 16 percent were Protestant and 3.6 percent were Catholic.

The numbers correspond with surveys done for the Hong Kong Transition Project at Hong Kong Baptist University. In its latest political polling, it found Catholics make up 7 percent of the population while Protestants make up 16 percent. Combined, the total population of Christians is about 23 percent.

Yip said the discrepancy between the official numbers and the survey findings is based on how the data was gathered. The Hong Kong census does not ask about religion, but the government most likely collected the data from ecumenical bodies that survey church membership lists and worship participants. But those lists leave out Christians who don’t regularly attend a specific church.

“There are probably some people that received Christian education in schools … and through their education they somehow identify as Christians,” Yip said. About 50 percent of schools in Hong Kong were started by Christian churches, and Christian ministries run about a quarter of the social services in the area. Yip himself remembers first professing Christ while attending a Methodist school. After graduation, he attended the Methodist church where some of his teachers worshipped. Other students may have converted to Christianity but never plugged into a church, leading to their absence in church—and state—records.

Yip believes having a correct sense of the amount of Christians in Hong Kong is important because it can better explain the strong influence Christians have in the current Umbrella Revolution and how readily Hong Kong citizens have embraced the principal of nonviolence.  As for the official count, “I wouldn’t say the first set of data is wrong, but it’s not quite complete,” Yip said.

June Cheng

June is the East Asia correspondent for WORLD Magazine. Follow June on Twitter @JuneCheng_World.

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