Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

WHY Hong Kong?

Written by: on June 7, 2018

When I tell my friends and family that I get to study in Hong Kong this September, invariably the first question they ask is, “Why Hong Kong?” It has taken me a while to figure out how to answer their question, but this week’s book by Steve Tsang, Modern History of Hong Kong, A: 1841-1997, [1] has helped provide more solid answers. My appetite has certainly been wetted for our visit!

Our upcoming Portland Seminary advance schedule for Hong Kong 2018 states our reasons for studying in Hong Kong are “East meets West: Finance, democracy, mission” (whereas our Cape Town advance in South Africa said the purposes were “First world meets third world: Leadership, diversity, reconciliation”). Furthermore, the schedule says topics we will be presented include: Public and cultural leadership, church and non-profit ministry challenges, opportunities, and initiatives in Hong Kong and China, and Christian business leadership in Hong Kong and China. [2]

In my reading before our reading, I am learning this is a densely populated area, and my goodness, it must have more skyscrapers than anywhere else in the world. The strategic-ness of it’s location has to be prime, reminding me of important Biblical port cities like Corinth and Thessalonica. I can see why the book review found on historybookmix.com stated verbally on YouTube, “From simple fishing villages to a major capitalistic icon, Hong Kong is now prosperous and has been returned to the most powerful communist regime on earth.” [3]

Trevor Clark says Tsang’s bibliography “overwhelms” but then goes on to say, “a consistent narrative, neither overlooks nor exaggerates shortcomings.” [4]

It is my intent to use this week’s book to prepare for our Hong Kong visit, specifically as it relates to finance, democracy and mission. As I read Tsang, my bias was to discover nuggets that related to these three areas specifically.


First of all: Finance. It is important to understand Tsang’s comment, “Hong Kong was not picked for a colony by the government in London, and was ‘occupied not with a view to colonization’, but for diplomatic, commercial and military purposes” [6] Put another way, this time with a phrase not easily forgotten and rated at least PG-13 for graphic images, “It ought to be conveniently situated for commercial intercourse” with good harbors, natural facilities for military defense, and easily provisioned, especially well positioned for Chinese and British trade. [7]

Commercial intercourse indeed! Why else? That is where finance, yay the almighty dollar, enters the scene and becomes such a driving factor! Simply mention the words EAST INDIA COMPANY and all should realize that with this trade comes greed, malice, deception, speed and compromise. My first introduction to reading about the EIC was in a rather R-rated book recommended before I visited Hawaii on my 25th wedding anniversary. The East India Company was ruthless, dictatorial, monopolizing, and money hungry at the expense of the ignorant. No tactic seemed beneath them. Dave Ramsey would surely blush at their “build wealth” strategies!

Of course, also mentioned in the finances realm was opium! It is too easy to say not everyone used opium for ignoble purposes, as I understand opium was medicinal and not illegal originally in some British/Chinese circles. However, we know good and well it took a dark side route and became a driving force in the trade monopoly called the EIC. Jackie Pullinger described well the downside of opium that she witnessed and it was nothing short of a tool of God’s enemy. I hope those aren’t opium leaves in the Hong Kong emblem I displayed above.

However, understanding the promotion of trade, I accept Hong Kong being an imperial outpost for the promotion of exchanges with the Chinese. British jurisdiction provided stability, security and predictability which helped Hong Kong to flourish. [8]  I get it!

Now, onto our second focus: Democracy. Interestingly, the original government for Hong Kong was on purpose “as small as possible” and was hardly a representative government. [9]  To let the overwhelming majority of Chinese residents to dominate was unacceptable to the colonial government. It seemed expats received most of the attention and privileges. Ouch! I am not saying don’t trust your government, but I think we learned in this Cohort to VERIFY. That would certainly apply to Hong Kong.

It baffled me why the original government was then called an “autocracy” while the rest of the British dependents were nearly democratic. [10] Obviously, from my perspective, the autocracy served the mainland better, so let’s go with that. I get it! Ironically, no matter what the government actually was, or how it somehow survived in a type of partnership, the colonial society obviously now rests in the communistic arms of China…although Beijing was not completely aware of the complexities in Hong Kong.

Finally: Mission. The lowering of the British flag on June 30, 1997 unfortunately did not solve the social ills of Hong Kong, described in our previous book by Jackie Pullinger. I find it interesting that the following conclusion was made by the SAR’s Chief Executive,

Our foremost task is to enhance Hong Kong’s economic vitality and sustain economic growth. Only through the creation of wealth can we improve the living of the people of Hong Kong, and continue to contribute to our country. [11]

Skills in critical thinking should immediately question the above statement. Throwing dollars at social ills the size of Hong Kong seem shortsighted at best. As Christians we would challenge treating the symptoms of their problems, instead of treating the heart. Jesus provides the only eternal hope for Hong Kong!

I close with Dave Ramsey’s often used quote that he uses to end every radio broadcast, “Remember, there’s ultimately only one way to financial peace, and that’s to walk daily with the Prince of Peace, Christ Jesus.” [12]


[1] Tsang, Steve Yui-Sang, A Modern History of Hong Kong. London: I.B. Tauris, 2011.

[2] Kerns, Loren. “Advance Schedule | Leadership and Global Perspectives DMin.” George Fox University. June 03, 2018. Accessed June 06, 2018. https://www.georgefox.edu/seminary/programs/dmin/lgp/advance-schedule.html.

[3] HistoryBookMixCom. “History Book Review: A Modern History of Hong Kong by Steve Tsang.” YouTube. July 27, 2012. Accessed June 06, 2018. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nAmx_5ePwi8.

[4] Luscombe, Stephen. “British Empire Book Review by Taylor Clark.” The British Empire. February 14, 2014. Accessed June 06, 2018. https://www.britishempire.co.uk/library/modernhistoryofhongkong.htm.

[5] “Hong Kong Emblem.” Wikipedia. June 05, 2018. Accessed June 07, 2018. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hong_Kong.

[6] Tsang. p. 20.

[7] Ibid., p. 21.

[8] Ibid., p. 56.

[9] Ibid., p. 24.

[10] Ibid., p. 26.

[11] Ibid., p. 268.

[12] “Dave Ramsey Quote.” A-Z Quotes: Dave Ramsey. Accessed June 08, 2018. http://www.azquotes.com/quote/813157.

About the Author

Jay Forseth

Superintendent of the Western Conference of the Evangelical Church. Blessed with 28 years as the husband of my amazing wife who I can't make it without. Now three of four in our family are attending University, but both my children are way smarter than me.

8 responses to “WHY Hong Kong?”

  1. Kyle Chalko says:

    Trust no one.

    Living in Hong Kong I would be so suspicious of any sort of hidden or covert agents from the mainland to try and influence the government in nefarious ways. I like to think we have come a long way since the EIC, but I also wonder if people have just became more patient, subtle and underhanded about their extortion and manipulation. At least, its less violent

  2. M Webb says:

    香港为何 is your title Why Hong Kong.
    Jay, I think you will “stand tall” and be noticed in HK. Your ministry of presence will be tremendous, and because you are so tall, you will be watched, and I am excited to see how you will again “reflect” the image of Christ.
    I like the way you linked your dissertation problem on finance to the Advance and Tsang’s discussion on the EIC. Yes! Opium was the devil’s tool, and that and other addictive substances and behaviors continue to be Satan’s tool, devices, and schemes.
    I look forward to seeing how “mission” happens in HK. As future global ministry leaders, we need to explore, examine, and experience how ministry happens within the HK framework. I am sure we will add new filters and viewing lens of discernment to aide and enhance our personal ministry callings.
    M. Webb

  3. Jason Turbeville says:

    Great read brother. I agree with your assessment of the EIC as a brutal thing. It seems to me that the British Empire allowed them to work with impunity as long as the trade was monetarily beneficial. We have some of the same issues here with our dealings with the first people of North America. Brutalize with the intent of making money. Says a bunch about the human heart.


  4. I too look forward to our trip to Hong Kong and appreciated your sharing of our theme for the trip. This part was very sobering to me as well…”However, we know good and well it took a dark side route and became a driving force in the trade monopoly called the EIC. Jackie Pullinger described well the downside of opium that she witnessed and it was nothing short of a tool of God’s enemy.” Great post as always Jay!

  5. Greg says:

    Seeing how God works in spite of the obstacles is both frightening and exciting. Hong Kong is a unusual place that hides behind its wealth and influence. I too learned a lot from this walk. Looking forward to eating some dim sum with all of you.

  6. Jennifer Williamson says:

    Nice post Jay, you wove a lot in theres. I wonder also how Cavanaugh would respond. How do capitalism and consumerism play into what Hong Kong has become?

  7. Shawn Hart says:

    Jay, truly excellent post. I appreciate the multi-faceted way you incorporated the reading with our past reading as well as with our upcoming trip. I have not yet really started looking at the modern potential of our trip to come; thanks to our readings, I am actually a little intimidated by Hong Kong. I look forward to seeing the spiritual movement of China as well as seeing the struggles and obstacles that still face it in regards to Christianity.

    Your post helped to demonstrate that Christian influences sometimes has a lot of other areas to compete with in order to be heard.

  8. david says:

    Thanks Jay,
    I think you did a good job here using the book and reading around it to get a sense for Hong Kong and why we’re going. The variety of aspects that you touched on (i.e.: finance, commerce, democracy, mission) will all come into play for sure. I’m excited to be there with you!

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