How many Christians are there in Hong Kong? We might have heard some numbers here and there, maybe 5% or 10%?  This seems to be an easy question to tackle but when we start to look into the figures and data, it seems much more complicated than we could think of.

        Why do we have to know the number of Christian population in Hong Kong?  We do not only want to find out the number of Christians, but we should definitely better understand the local religious landscape in order to better serve the city.  This article is a collage of different figures and resources that reported on the number of Christians in Hong Kong.  Many of these sources suggested Protestant and Catholic believers to account for 24 to 31% of Hong Kong’s population, whereas Protestant churches census reported attendees of worship services were about 4.6% of the city’s population.  This article addresses the gap and differences in these figures and we hope data and information of this kind can help propose strategies for churches and organizations to better serve this city together. 

Data from Hong Kong Government and Christian Organizations

        The latest number of Hong Kong population is about 7.44 million1 and the Hong Kong Yearbook 20162,3 published by the Information Services Department (with information provided by the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Christian Council), the estimated number of Christ believers in 2016 was 884,000 (about 12%, based on 7.33 million population in 2016), including 500,000 Protestant believers (about 6.8%) and about 384,000 baptised Catholic believers (about 5.2%), which altogether include 166,000 Filipinos. 

Distribution of Religious Background of Hong Kong Population
Distribution of Religious Background of Hong Kong Population
Source: Hong Kong Yearbook 2016 and Legislative Council Secretariat Research Office

        The Government had also done surveys on specific groups and had collected the religious background information from the participants.  For example, in year 2010, the Government collaborated with the University of Hong Kong and interviewed 1,054 youth aged 15 to 24 through household sampling4.  79.2% of the youth in this survey claimed they do not have religion, 16.7% were Protestant believers and 2% were Catholic believers.  The United State’s Pew Research Centre5 made use of data from Asian Barometer and had estimated Protestant and Catholic believers to account for 14.3% of Hong Kong’s population.

        According to the 2014 Hong Kong Protestant Church Survey by Hong Kong Church Renewal Movement6, there were about 1,287 Chinese-speaking churches and 60 English-speaking churches in Hong Kong.  According to their survey results, the average weekly worship service attendees were about 333,453.  With the population of 2014 as 7.24 million, the percentage of Protestant churchgoers accounted for about 4.6% of the city’s population; and there were no data available for the weekly attendees for Catholic mass.

        According to the information from Census and Statistics Department, the Population Census and General Household Survey did not include questions on religious background of people in Hong Kong.  Taking reference to the census done in other countries, religious background is part of what census measures and these questions were asked in different ways, for example, Census in United States7 make use of phone survey to ask participants to describe themselves in terms of religion and whether they regarded themselves as adherents of a religious community.  In United Kingdom, participants in census8 were asked about their religion with choices of 7 options including: No religion, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh. 

Data from Academic Journal Articles in Hong Kong 

        As we lack reliable religious landscape data from Population Census in Hong Kong, and the above mentioned data varied quite a lot, we at the Ray Bakke Centre for Urban Transformation conducted a meta-analysis in early August 2018.  We collected over a thousand pieces of academic journal articles published between year 2006 to 2018 on studies in Hong Kong, which covered diverse fields including health and medical topics etc.  We included 47 pieces in our meta-analysis as these journal articles had asked and reported the religious background of the participants of their studies in the papers, of which 24 of the articles had specific breakdown of the distribution of religious background.  We had made use of the data and found the below result in the meta-analysis:

Religious Groups

95% confidence interval

Protestant and Catholic (Total)

24.1% to 31.0%

Protestant (Excluding Catholic)

20.4% to 29.3%

Buddhist or other religion

10.7% to 16.3%

No Religion

54.4% to 64.6%

        *Special thanks to Dr. Harry Hui for his guidance and help on data analysis
  

        When interpreting the above data, it is essential for us to note that this data only reflect the common religious background of research participants in Hong Kong, and it may not entirely reflect the religious landscape in the city.  We are also aware that these journal articles adopted different sampling methods, but we had tried our best to ensure the sampling of these articles were not done through affiliation of any religious groups, and that participants with No Religion remained to be the majority.  Another point to note is that many of these studies had looked into specific groups of participants including secondary school students, university students, adults with special medical history or general population; which these variations may also bring about differences in the data and figures presented.  The key point to note here is the gap between more than 20% of Protestant compared to 4.6% of Protestant churchgoers.  This gap may represent a large portion of believers who are not regular churchgoers, which we can assume to be Dechurched or Unchurched population and it is important for us to understand and look into their faith journey. 

Conclusion

        Although we could not get hold of actual figures and trend of Christian population, we anticipate the coming of more representative surveys by Population Census or other organizations to help us better understand the religious landscape across Hong Kong.  We also look forward to looking into the spiritual status and faith experience of the self-claimed Protestant believers outside of church.  

        Christian population can bring transformation and blessings to our city, and equally Christian faith based organizations are important channels to pass on these blessings to our society.  Aside from the above mentioned studies on Christian population, our centre would also launch studies to look into the distribution, function and nature of Christian NGOs in Hong Kong.  According to the member list of The Hong Kong Council of Social Service (downloaded in July 2018), about 127 out of 465 member NGOs are Christian faith based NGOs (about 27.3%).  We will further look in the Government’s List of Charitable Institutions and Trusts for more data and information and initiate studies to better understand our city and how the Gospel can bring transformation to people across Hong Kong. 

(The Chinese version of this article has been published on Christian Times
on 15 August 2018 and our Newsletter in August 2018 Special Edition)

Source:

  1. Census and Statistics Department (2018): Mid-year population for 2018 [Press Release, 14 Aug 2018]
  2. Information Services Department (2017): Hong Kong Year Book 2016
  3. Legislative Council Secretariat Research Office (2016): Fact Sheet on Religious facilities in Hong Kong
  4. The University of Hong Kong Policy 21 Limited (2010): Longitudinal Study on Civic Engagement and Social Networks of Youth in Hong Kong
  5. Pew Research Centre: http://www.pewforum.org/2015/04/02/religious-projection-table/2010/percent/Asia-Pacific/
  6. Hong Kong Church Renewal Movement (2016): Report on 2014 Hong Kong Church Survey
  7. United States Census Bureau: http://www2.census.gov/library/publications/2011/compendia/statab/131ed/tables/12s0075.xls
  8. Office for National Statistics UK: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/populationandmigration/migrationwithintheuk/articles/whatisyourreligion/2015-01-15