23 August 1964 |
Kong Hee (Chinese: 康希; pinyin: Kāng Xī; born 23 August 1964) is the founder and senior pastor of City Harvest Church in Singapore. Kong is a Christian in the Charismatic Movement, with a philosophy of ministry that emphasises the Great Commandment, Great Commission, and Cultural Mandate. He is married to pop music singer Sun Ho.
In 2015, Kong was found guilty in court of three charges of criminal breach of trust, and sentenced to eight years jail, beginning in 2016. This was the result of a 2012 arrest and a trial beginning in 2013 into the allegations that Kong and five other church leaders illegally used $24 million of church funds to fund the music career of Sun Ho (who was not charged), and then misused another $26 million in a cover-up. Kong was also found by the judge to be the "key man" behind the scandal who had guided his five accomplices.
Kong is the fifth child of Kong Leng, a professional engineer, and Toh Poh-Eng, a diamond trader. From 1975 to 1988, Kong was a member of Marine Parade Christian Centre, an Anglican church located in eastern Singapore. He schooled at Raffles Institution (1977–1980), Raffles Junior College (1981–1982) as well as National University of Singapore, Bachelor of Science (Computer & Information Sciences) (1985–1988).
During his university years, he worked part-time for the Chapel of the Resurrection under the oversight of Anglican vicar, Reverend Dr. Canon James Wong. During that tenure, he helped Canon Wong set up a new congregation, Orchard Christian Centre. Upon university graduation in 1988, Kong worked a short stint in a local publishing house as a programmer.
In 1989, Kong was a staff evangelist with "Christ For Asia", a missions organisation in the Philippines led by Assemblies of God minister, Reverend Randy Sing. At that same time, there was an opportunity for Kong to pioneer a new church in Singapore. With the support and encouragement of some senior pastors in the city, Kong decided to relocate back to Singapore and helped set up a new congregation with 20 youths.
City Harvest Church (1989 till present)
Since 1997, Kong was the executive director of the Festival of Praise, an annual event that brings together churches for united prayer and worship. Kong is a board member of Dr. David Yonggi Cho's Church Growth International (South Korea) and Dr. Luis Bush's Transform World (Indonesia). He and his wife Sun Ho own two companies, International Harvest, which is a provider of corporate training services and motivational courses, and a fashion company called Skin Couture. In May 2008, Kong was conferred the Honorary Doctorate in Business Administration from Hansei University in Seoul, Korea.
City Harvest Church has an average of 23,256 attendees as of December 2010 with 47 affiliate "Harvest" churches, as well as 29 affiliate churches and 6 Bible schools in Asia, namely, in Singapore, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Taiwan. Another 18 affiliate churches in the East and West Malaysia are under the Malaysian Harvest Fellowship which Kong Hee has co-founded.
Arrest and Imprisonment (2016 onwards)
Criminal Breach of Trust
On 31 May 2010, the Office of the Commissioner of Charities and the Commercial Affairs Department of the Singapore Police began investigating more than 16 individuals linked to the City Harvest Church, including church founder Pastor Kong Hee and his wife, Sun Ho, after receiving complaints alleging the misuse of church funds. The police were looking into financial transactions involving the possible falsification of accounts and criminal breach of trust amounting to millions of dollars which dated back a number of years. The authorities said that regular church activities and services for the congregation need not be disrupted during ongoing investigations, which is expected to take several months.
The Cross Over Project - The accused argued that the Cross over project was used to evangelize, convert or seek to convert (someone) to Christianity. As Pastor A.R. Bernard said, " The bigger picture, he said, is that Singapore’s religious freedoms are not identical to those in the U.S. Accepted practices here, such as churches and charities using their own films and “crossover artists” who perform religious and secular music for evangelism, are “strange” in Singapore." 
The author Vincent Phillip Munoz has written in his book that often a church will use its funds to carry out both its secular and religious activities, and collect funds to finance their secular operations(p. 163). (Walz v. Tax Comm'n of City of New York, 397 U.S. 664 (1970)).
The crossover project explained by the accused was meant to expand their congregation locally and overseas. However, the music video China Wine had no isolable religious or Christian influences. It became questionable to some church members how was the music video funded. These complaints were investigated by authorities to determine if there were misuse of church funds.
In June 2012, Kong Hee and five other members of the church were arrested by the CAD. All five face multiple charges of criminal breach of trust, while three (not including Kong Hee) face multiple charges of falsifying accounts of the church. They were released on $500,000 bail each, and set to return to court on 25 July. Each of the three counts of criminal breach of trust he faces has a maximum sentence of life imprisonment plus fine.
On the same day as the initial arrests, the COC released a press statement detailing the results of its inquiry. It stated that there were misconduct and mismanagement in the administration of the charity. There were irregularities of at least $23 million in the charity's funds, which were used to finance Sun Ho's secular music career. There was also a concerted effort to conceal this movement of funds from stakeholders. Eight members were suspended from their duties with the charity. The eight included the five arrested, Sun Ho and two others. The COC is considering further course of action under the Charities Act. The case was adjourned twice while the judge in the case has denied an appeal by the defence, who had claimed that there is no case to answer, stating that the six had been dishonest in the use of the money by using Xtron as a "shell company" to enable the misuse of church funds.
The verdict was handed down on 21 October 2015 with all six defendants being found guilty of all charges.
On 20 November, Kong Hee was sentenced to 8 years in prison, the heaviest sentence received among the 6 church leaders. He will begin to serve his sentence starting from January 11 next year. While Kong Hee is seeking an appeal against his sentence, the prosecution led by the Attorney-General's Chambers has sought to appeal against the apparent leniency by Judicial Commissioner See Kee Oon,
|“||Having carefully considered the written grounds, the prosecution is of the view that the sentences imposed are manifestly inadequate, in all the circumstances of the case. The prosecution has accordingly filed notices of appeal today, against the sentences imposed on all six accused persons.||”|
In March 2010, a blogger identified plagiarism on Kong Hee's 'Daily Devotionals' as they were similar to writings to another publication, "The Leadership Bible" which was published 10 years ago. The copied text were published as physical copies into two books, "Renewing Your Spiritual Energy in 90 Days" without accreditation to the original authors.
Kong Hee's daily devotionals were originally compiled from his personal reading notes and printed as supplementary reading for his members, free of charge. Some years later, due to popular demand overseas, a local publisher compiled and released foreign language translations of the devotional for sale.
Kong Hee posted a note on his website and explained that the devotion was "originally meant only for internal circulation among the members of my church. As such, there was an oversight in not quoting the sources of some portions that borrow from the writings of other Christian authors." There was also an apology for the oversight.
The publisher who is also a member of City Harvest Church, acknowledged that at the time of publication, both himself and Mr Kong were aware that certain portions of the content were not original. The publisher of "Renewal" has since made amendments to the soft copies to include accreditation.
- "Kong Hee's Profile". City Harvest Church. Retrieved 5 June 2007.
- "City Harvest trial: All 6 accused, including founder Kong Hee, found guilty of all charges". The Straits Times. Retrieved 21 October 2015.
- "What you need to know about the City Harvest trial". The Straits Times. Retrieved 21 November 2015.
- Cheong, Danson. "Kong Hee 'key man behind church scandal'". The Straits Times. Retrieved 24 October 2015.
- "Every Member is a Minister' at Singapore Megachurch". Church & Ministry. 10 February 2004. Archived from the original on 27 April 2006.
- "CHC Story". City Harvest Church. Retrieved 17 April 2011.
- "Why Isn't the American church growing?". Charisma Magazine. Retrieved 23 January 2009.
- "Speakers". City City Church. Archived from the original on 24 August 2007. Retrieved 29 June 2007.
- "Kong Hee's Profile". City Harvest Church. Archived from the original on 3 June 2007. Retrieved 5 June 2007.
- "History of the Church". City Harvest Church. Archived from the original on 17 May 2007. Retrieved 5 June 2007.
- Wetzstein, Cheryl. "Singapore megachurch founder Kong Hee on trial in religious freedom test case". Washington Times. Washington Times. Retrieved 3 August 2015.
- Munoz, Vincent Phillip (2013). Religious Liberty and the American Supreme Court: The Essential Cases and Documents (Updated ed.). Rowman & LittleField. p. 163. ISBN 978-1-4422-0828-5. Retrieved 3 August 2015.
- DURAI, JENNANI. "City Harvest probe ‘triggered by Complaints, not government reviews" (PDF). Ministry of Social and Family Development. The Straits Times. Retrieved 3 August 2015.
- "CAD arrests 5 City Harvest Church members, including Pastor Kong Hee". Channel NewsAsia. 26 June 2012. Retrieved 26 June 2012.
- "City Harvest case: Allegedly total of $50m misused". The Straits Times. 28 June 2012. Retrieved 28 June 2012.
- "City Harvest's founder Kong Hee, four others charged". Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved 27 June 2012.
- "Commissioner of Charities suspends 8 members of City Harvest board". Today. 26 June 2012. Retrieved 28 June 2012.
- "Inquiry found misconduct and mismanagement in the City Harvest Church". 26 June 2012. Retrieved 28 June 2012.
- "6th City Harvest member charged; cases adjourned for 5 weeks". Today. 25 July 2012. Retrieved 6 September 2012.
- "City Harvest Church case adjourned to Oct 4". The Straits Times. 22 August 2012. Retrieved 5 September 2012.
- "City Harvest trial: 21 months to 8 years' jail for leaders". Today. 20 November 2015. Retrieved 20 November 2015.
- "City Harvest trial: Prosecution appeals 'manifestly inadequate' sentences". MediaCorp Pte Ltd. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
- "Kong Hee Devotion". Retrieved 15 June 2010.
- Kong Hee 'plagiarised' book , The Straits Times, 12 June 2010
- City Harvest founder now accused of plagiarism, The Straits Times, 12 June 2010, pg A3
- Ministries Today Magazine (December 2003).