Singapore—Kong Hee, the founder of City Harvest Church (CHC) who was released from jail last Thursday, August 22, addressed the church for the first time on August 24.

He thanked the congregation for standing with and supporting him in the past few years, which he said, had been “very difficult and painful for me and everyone involved.”

Mr Kong also asked the congregation for more time to adjust back to life after having been imprisoned and told them that he would be devoting time to his family, especially to his son and his aging parents.

The founder of one of Singapore’s largest churches and charitable institutions had been in Changi Prison since April 21, 2017, serving two years and four months of his sentence. Mr Kong and five other members of CHC’s leadership were convicted of misappropriating around S$50 million from church funds. 

Mr Kong had originally received a prison sentence of eight years, which, on appeal, had been reduced to 3 and a half years. It is customary for detainees to serve two-thirds of their sentences before they are released. 

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While Mr Kong declined to make a statement upon leaving the jail, CHC published an announcement on its website on August 22, thanking the “Church Family” for their support and telling them of their pastor’s release from jail.

But on August 24, Mr Kong spoke in public for the first time. However, before his speech, one of CHC’s pastors, Bobby Chaw, asked the congregation to hold their applause, upon the request of Mr Hong.

Pastor Chaw said, “This week has been special for our church, but can you hold on to your cheers and your claps? Of course, we are so happy that Pastor Kong is back with us. But, Pastor Kong has specially requested that we don’t clap.”

Mr Kong said that he would not step back into church duties quite yet.

“This is the only time you will hear from me for quite a while. Having been away since 2017, it feels really surreal to be here in this hall and to be home, reunited with my family, especially my parents, my siblings, my in-laws and of course with all of you again.

I have served my sentence and today I find myself humbled. I want all of you to know that I am so sorry, so sorry, for any pain, anxiety, disappointment, and grief that you have suffered because of me. 

The last few years have been very difficult and painful for me and everyone involved.”

He requested for CHC to give him “some time to readjust back into a normal life again” and said that his family was his priority at the moment.

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“I have missed out on a significant part of my son’s growing-up years with the long-drawn court trial and subsequent incarceration. My absence has also pained my parents deeply. Now, they are already in their 90s and I wish to be a filial son, to be around to take care of them.”

He then went on to thank the church members, particularly the individuals who stayed and helped rebuild the church after the scandal and trial over the misappropriated funds, which lasted from 2010 to 2018./ TISG

Read related: Kong Hee, founder of City Harvest Church, released from prison