On the day after the violent mob attacks at the Yuen Long subway station, Hongkongers waited for their chief executive Carrie Lam to explain why police didn’t respond to calls for help. Lam apparently delayed her press conference by half a day to attend the funeral of a prominent Buddhist abbot with a sinister human rights history and strong communist ties.
At least 45 people were injured, including a local lawmaker, when a group of men wearing white t-shirts and masks, and wielding metal rods and sticks, beat up people who were returning home after a day of protests on the night of July 21. Calls to police were unanswered, and police stayed away for hours.
Instead of immediately condemning the attacks on unarmed protesters and assuring Hong Kong citizens of a thorough investigation, chief executive Carrie Lam eventually came out at 3 p.m. on July 22 for a news conference. When reporters asked what she had done in the morning, Lam didn’t provide an answer.
Online information later revealed that she had attended the funeral of the abbot at the Po Lin Monastery in the morning.
Mary Jean Reimer, an attorney and former actress, also known as Yung Jing-Jing, posted a comment on Facebook questioning Carrie Lam’s priorities: “As long as you conduct serious business, you can go wherever you want. But Hong Kong was at such a critical suffering moment; your choice indicates your lack of clear priorities.”
A Communist Monk
Sik Chi Wai died on July 13 at the age of 86. He became a monk at the Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island in Hong Kong at age 30 and was the Abbot there since 2005. He also held a number of other titles and positions. He was the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the monastery; an honorary President of the Hong Kong Buddhist Association; as well as a Hong Kong deputy for the Chinese Communist Party’s 9th and 10th National People’s Congress (NPC).
His funeral was held on July 22 at the monastery. The attendees included Chief Executive Carrie Lam, the Director of the Hong Kong Liaison Office Wang Zhimin, Deputy Director Tan Tieniu, Secretary for Home Affairs Ray Lau Kong-wah, Director of Home Affairs Janice Tse, and religious leaders from around Hong Kong.
Sik’s titles indicate his close relationship with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Wang Zhimin praised Sik in his eulogy as “a very steadfast patriot who loved the country and Hong Kong, embraced the ‘one country two systems’ policy and the Basic Law, supported Hong Kong’s return to China and a smooth subsequent transition, and supported the Hong Kong administration.”
Wang added that Sik was “very dutiful as a member of the NPC, provided advice and contributed to strategies…made significant contribution to the prosperity and security of Hong Kong and supported building the nation.”
Carrie Lam expressed deep sorrow over Sik’s death and extended “condolences to the Buddhist community on behalf of the government.”
In his column in November 2015 on Taiwan People News and other media outlets, senior political and economic commentator Lin Baohua wrote that the CCP worked on forming a “united front” with the religious community in Hong Kong after the return of Hong Kong to China by Britain in 1997. Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island was founded in 1906, and for its 100-year anniversary, the CCP gifted it the giant bronze Buddha statue that has become a major attraction.
Subsequently, some religious people joined the CCP, according to Lin.
“We can tell a lot about these people by looking at the CCP’s political titles they hold, be it in the NPC or National People’s Political Consultative Conference (NPPCC)––not to mention their status as underground CCP members,” Lin wrote.
Sik also became part of the CCP with close ties to the CCP’s United Front Work Department, according to Lin.
Sik’s Participation in the Persecution Falun Gong
Sik took part in the CCP’s policy of persecuting Falun Gong, which earned him the attention and support from Jiang Zemin, the former General Secretary and head of the CCP.
Falun Gong is a Buddhist-inspired practice for self-improvement, consisting of meditation, gentle exercises, and moral teachings centered on the principles Truthfulness, Compassion and Forbearance. It is free of charge and gained widespread popularity in China during the 1990s due to its alleged health benefits. Jiang launched a massive persecution of Falun Gong in July 1999, when the practice had gained an estimated 70 to 100 million followers. Soon, reports of mass arrests, imprisonment, brainwashing, torture and deaths of Falun Gong practitioners were reported.
In March 2000, while attending an NPC meeting, Sik gave a speech in which he described Falun Gong as a “cult.” Later, he told Chinese media that he supported the ban of Falun Gong. He also expressed his happiness that his speech had been endorsed by Jiang and said he was “very honored” to have met Jiang in person.
In March 2001, Sik attended an “anti-cult” photo exhibit in Hong Kong hosted by pro-Beijing Wen Wei Po and the Chinese History and Culture Educational Foundation. There Sik openly slandered Falun Gong again and criticized Hong Kong locals who “cover up and promote Falun Gong.”
With the endorsement from Jiang and the CCP, Sik received a Hong Kong Copper Bauhinia Star and a Silver Bauhinia Star from former pro-communist chief executive Leung Chun-ying.
It can be said that under Sik’s leadership as the abbot of Po Lin, the CCP has succeeded in forming a “united front” with the monastery.
Commentator Lee Yee wrote an article in 2015, saying: “Po Lin Monastery has completely ‘reddened’ since 1997. The original monks have been marginalized. The CEO and many monks are communist cadres from the mainland. These cadres came to Hong Kong with various means including falsified marriages and then became monks. I believe that the Hong Kong Buddhist community is under the complete control of the CCP.”
In the last few years, several Hong Kong news media have published reports of scandalous conduct by monks and nuns from Po Lin Monastery, including luxury Hawaiian vacations with one nun sunbathing on the beach in a bikini.
“The fake mainland monks of course will not follow the rules for monks…” Lee wrote.
Han Yunlu and Terri Wu contributed to this report.