A report released on Sunday by the Hong Kong Christian Council (HKCC) has rocked churches in the territory, with revelations of the sexual harassment of women by clergy.
HKCC is the umbrella body for 21 churches including Baptists, Methodists and Anglicans, representing a total Christian community of around 500,000. The report from its gender justice group was based on responses to an online survey conducted between August last year and April. Of the responses from 55 churchgoers, 35 said they had themselves been victims and 20 said they knew people who had been. The incidents ranged from rape or attempted rape, in one in five cases, to unwanted touching or messages with sexual implications. The report, titled 'No More Silence', found that 17 per cent of victims were forced to engage in some form of sexual activity.
The survey reported by the South China Morning Post said that in 53 cases the culprit was a man and in 48 cases the victim was a woman.
Council assistant executive secretary Jessica Tso Hiu-tung said: 'The survey shows an inconvenient fact: that sexual violence in churches has never stopped.'
She told Radio Free Asia: 'The organizational structure of churches is pretty hierarchical, and very precise about that hierarchy. Sexual harassment is usually very closely linked to power, and we have seen a lot of cases reported in which the perpetrators are pastors and teachers, generally higher-ranking than the victims.
'It's pretty easy for them to prey on less powerful people because they use the fact that they are widely trusted by the public.'
Yesterday Christian leaders promised to clamp down on sexual harassment.
Methodist minister Rev Lo Lung-kwong, HKCC incoming secretary general, said it would be one of his 'top priorities' once he takes office this Sunday.
Rev Peter Koon Ho-ming, provincial secretary general of the city's Anglican church, said: 'Regardless of who you are or the size of your church, sexual harassment or abuse should never be tolerated or appeased.'
The survey results were released in the wake of a furore after the former pastor of the Brotherly Love Swatow Baptist Church turned himself in to police. Ngai Lap-yin was fired two months ago but confessed on Friday he had made sexual overtures to women, one of whom revealed details of his behaviour on Facebook.