Jesuit Stephen Chow Sau-yan is a compromise choice between pro-Beijing candidate Peter Choy and his anti-CCP rival, Joseph Ha.
by Massimo Introvigne
It took two years and a half for Pope Francis to decide who will be the new bishop of Hong Kong, but finally the cat is out of the bag. The name of China’s Provincial of the Jesuits, Father Stephen Chow Sau-yan, comes as a surprise.
Pro-democracy Catholics in Hong Kong close to retired Cardinal Joseph Zen had repeatedly told Bitter Winter that they expected the pro-CCP vicar general of the diocese Peter Choy Wai-man to be appointed, because Beijing wanted him. and the Vatican would not challenge President Xi Jinping on such a delicate matter. In fact, Catholic media close to Cardinal Zen had announced that Choy had already been appointed, commenting that the Vatican was “giving Hong Kong to the CCP as a gift.”
The “Zen party” rooted for Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing, who would have been a natural choice in normal times but, as a staunch supporter of the pro-democracy protests, was never a possibility. Choosing Ha would have contradicted the Vatican’s stance of keeping silent on the Hong Kong protests and avoiding confronting the CCP to preserve the Vatican-China deal of 2018.
Often, when in doubt, the Jesuit Pope Francis finds a solution among the Jesuits. The newly appointed bishop. Stephen Chow Sau-yan, is not the worst possible choice. He earned his Ed. PhD in Harvard, and has devoted his whole life to Catholic education, something the Catholic Church wants to preserve in Hong Kong against the predictable attacks from the CCP, which has already commented that most pro-democracy leaders come from Catholic schools. On the other end, Chow has not emerged as an explicit supporter of the protests against the National Security Law.
The fact that Chow, rather than the pro-CCP Choy, has been selected is a sign that the Vatican wants to continue its dialogue with Beijing but is not prepared to accept blindly all its “suggestions.”