City Harvest Case part 5: CHC’s Crossover or Sun Ho’s Crossover

As explained in my previous post “City Harvest Case Part 4 – Can You Rationalize a Crime to be a Benefit to Society?“, the CHC investigations and trial have turned the spotlights on  a number of very questionable decisions and practices made by the CHC Leadership in relation to the Crossover project. While according to the CHC Crossover website, it was supposed to be an Evangelization project using secular pop music as a mean to reach out to “people who would never think of setting a foot in a church”, the Commissioner of Charities (CoC) and the Prosecution view the situation very differently. From their perspectives, the essential purpose of the CHC Crossover project was to provide the funds necessary to finance the costs associated with the launch of Sun Ho’s secular musical career in Hollywood (See links to articles about the CHC case). Looking at the facts that have been uncovered so far, it seems indeed clear, as already discussed in my post City Harvest Case Part 2 – If there is a Fraud what would be the Motives?”, that Sun Ho has been the main “beneficiary” of the Crossover project and of the funds allocated to it. Hence in this post, the focus will be on some of the very troubling questions that Sun Ho and her role in the crossover project – has raised as follows:

  • Question 1: Why was Sun Ho chosen as the main focus and only vehicle for the Crossover project?
  • Question 2: How does Sun Ho’s U.S. music breakthrough attempt fit with the objectives of the Crossover project?
  • Question 3: How does Sun Ho’s public statements and lifestyle in the U.S. align with the objectives of the Crossover project?
  • Question 4: How does Sun Ho’s U.S. stage personae fit with the objectives of the Crossover project?

To provide a balance perspective on each of the questions stated above, we will analyze them systematically to find out the following:

  1. Ethical Dissonances: Why the decisions and behaviors of the CHC leadership can create ethical dissonance issues? What is questionable about these issues?
  2. CHC leadership’s rationale: How were these issues rationalized by the CHC leadership in order to make their decisions and behaviors acceptable by church members and even to win their support?
  3. Critical Perspective: What are the potential weaknesses in the argumentation used by the CHC leadership to rationalize their decisions and behaviors?

Question1: Why was Sun Ho chosen as the main focus and only vehicle for the Crossover project?

1. Why should this be considered an ethical dissonance issue?

From a secular perspective, there is a basic conflict of interests situation in this case. The decision to “select” Sun Ho as the only vehicle for the crossover project among all the thousands of CHC church members is questionable, considering the simple fact that she is the wife of the senior pastor who was making the decision. The conflict of interests will cast some doubts on the motivations of Pastor Kong Hee. The suspicion is reinforced when you note that City Harvest Church has no lack of spiritually minded singing talents such as Annabel Soh, Sendy Bolang and Alison Yap. Did Sun Ho have necessarily the best voice, look, creative talent and story for the “pop star” job scope?

2. What is the CHC Leadership’s Rationale on this issue?

CHC Sun Ho concertsPastor Kong Hee repeatedly claimed during church services that the command about Sun Ho’s crossover came directly from God Himself, that he and his wife carefully confirmed it through months of prayers and the counsel from spiritual mentors. In particular, Pastor Kong stressed that they had received supporting prophetic words from Pastor Phil Pringle (currently Senior Pastor of C3 Australia and advisory pastor of CHC) as well as by other prophets, prophetess and even “signs and wonders” such as the many thousands of souls that were saved during her concerts in Taiwan in 2003. All this “proving” that it was indeed a mission that God had given to her. Pastor Kong Hee concluded that in the end, he and his wife had no choice, but to “surrender to the Will of God” and accept the mission.

3. Critical Perspective on the CHC leadership’s argumentation

Whether you are religious or not, a bit of skepticism is not just welcome, but in fact necessary to be able to ask some very simple and reasonable questions to leaders. The purpose is to ensure an appropriate level of accountability from the leadership. Ensuring accountability is indeed a very important principle in risk management. The accountability principle works for everybody’s benefits, including the leaders’ themselves by establishing check and balance mechanisms, preventing them from loosing touch with the reality of the principles that are supposed to guide their decisions and actions.

Did Pastor Kong Hee and Sun Ho loose touch with reality in the CHC case? In this regard, I have already mentioned above that it may sound quite self-serving for Pastor Kong Hee and Sun Ho to claim that God made the decision. So let’s explore this issue a bit further by asking more questions..

CHC cash Down-the-DrainAssuming that God indeed made the decision to choose Sun Ho as the vehicle for the Crossover, then how much money do you think, God would need to help her to make a breakthrough on the U.S. pop music scene? Considering that God is almighty and can do anything, He would certainly help her through signs and wonders. It does not mean that Sun Ho would not have to work hard to succeed, but God could and would open doors miraculously at critical times. However from what we can observe in Sun Ho’s case, it seems unfortunately that 7 years of trying very hard with 3 different top producers and spending at least SGD 24 millions  were NOT enough to succeed… Shouldn’t that raise some serious questions about whether God was really supporting this project?

With that in mind, how to justify the almost EXCLUSIVE focus on Sun Ho for the most critical Evangelization project of the church? If the Pop Music reach out strategy is really as effective as claimed by CHC leaders, then why support only one singing talent and not 2 or 3 or even more in order to reach a wider audience? It should have been possible to spread the SGD 24 millions to support a lot more artists or artistic projects in the church instead of just one. Furthermore risk management best practices would usually recommend “not putting all your eggs in the same basket“. It is often both more prudent and yet effective to spread your risks so as to minimize your exposure to failure, while at the same time to maximise your chances of success. Church members should certainly question the wisdom of the decision to choose Sun Ho as the vehicle for the Crossover project from both an ethical and “business” point of views. According to the prosecution, extravagant amount of Church members’ money was invested in Sun Ho’s Crossover and the question is, was it invested appropriately?

Question 2: How does Sun Ho’s U.S. music breakthrough attempt fit with the objectives of the Crossover project?

1. Why should this be considered an ethical dissonance issue?

Pastor Kong Hee has repeatedly shared during services the vision given to him by God that with CHC, he was to lead the way for a Christian renewal in Asia. So the obvious question is why did Sun Ho ended up in the U.S. for 5 years (from 2005 to 2010), trying to make a breakthrough on the pop music scene there? Many CHC members may have questions regarding the connection between the U.S. adventure and the Asian Christian renewal mission of CHC.

2. What is the CHC Leadership Rationale on this issue?

The rationale provided by the CHC Crossover website is that breaking through the U.S. pop music scene would have turned Sun Ho into a global star (the first from Asia), thus increasing her appeal, influence and hence her ability to reach into many people’s lives in Asia and even around the whole world. As a result, Sun Ho would have been able to “shine for Jesus Christ” and achieve all the official Crossover objectives (that I have already mentioned in a previous post, City Harvest Case Part 1: Following God or Mammon?). Pastor Kong further claimed that the decision to go to the U.S. was also a direct command given by God to them that had been “confirmed” through months of prayers and by miraculous signs. As examples of these miraculous signs, Pastor Kong Hee claimed during church services that a famous U.S. music producer (later identified as Justin Herz) was so impressed by Sun Ho’s music video “Miss Catastrophe” that he asked her to pursue a career in the U.S., predicting that she would have a great future there. You can check the video below to make you own judgment of its Hollywood potential.

Pastor Kong Hee also mentioned that another company (later identified as Tonos) had also offered to Sun Ho a 5 million dollars contract to launch her career in the U.S.. He asked the congregation to pray for her to help her make the right decision about the contract (see link to a prayers list given to CHC members during service in 2005). Here again the command of God was also confirmed by anointed prophets, including strong prophetic words by by Pastor Phil Pringle and blessings by Dr A R Bernard, Senior Pastor of the Christian Cultural Center, New York and CHC advisory chairman.

Finally Pastor Kong Hee repeatedly stressed during services in front of the congregation that going to the U.S. had been a very difficult decision for them to make, as after the birth of their son, Dayan, both he and his wife really wanted to focus more on their family. But in the end, as the command of God was loud and clear, here again they “obeyed” as they had no other choice but to surrender to the Will of God.

3. Critical Perspective on the CHC leadership’s argumentation

There are a few points I would like to cover here. First Pastor Kong Hee and Sun Ho claimed that they had to “sacrifice” their family life in Singapore to obey God’s command. However when we look more closely at the facts, we can observe that Sun Ho was enjoying the “super star” lifestyle, hiring renowned producers and top choreographers, getting large advance bonuses, living in a SGD 28,000 a month luxury mansion in a plush Hollywood district, buying clothes from top fashion designers, being served  by a large entourage of helpers (primarily members from the church) and participating in A-list events with other socialites. In short, she was the main beneficiary of the Crossover project and its fundings. Furthermore Sun Ho brought her family along with her in L.A., giving them the opportunity to enjoy those benefits as well. Finally Pastor Kong Hee himself also moved to the U.S. to be with his family and enjoyed the same luxury socialites lifestyle. He even charged quietly his business class traveling expenses to the Church ($700,000 according to information revealed during the trial). So when a sacrifice comes with so many benefits, we may wonder whether it is still a sacrifice..

Second, it now appears that many of the “miraculous signs” that Pastor Kong Hee had highlighted as proofs of God’s support to the Crossover project, in fact, did not happen or were of dubious nature. For example, what to make of the views of an experienced and renowned industry expert such as Justin Herz who predicted Sun Ho’s success in the U.S.? Let’s consider the following scenario: Imagine that you are an American music producer and you need to make a lot of money to finance your expensive lifestyle, then you come across an Asian pop singer wanabe with big dreams. Unfortunately for her, your professional experience tells you that there is slim chance for her to succeed (for whatever reasons i.e. lack talent, no X factor, etc.).

CHC Tonos call it quitBut then you find out that money is not a problem for her as she is the wife of the Senior pastor of a very wealthy church who even said to you that “the sky is the limit” when it comes to funding his wife’s career (see Todayonline article). Is this going to affect your professional judgment? Considering that at least $6 millions was paid to his company, a cynical view would say that Justin Herz would probably have predicted “the moon” to somebody able to pay him that kind of money. In the many fraud cases I have investigated, I have often noted that you can almost always find a group of people who, while they are not directly involved in the fraudulent scheme, will often knowingly take advantage of the situation to extract money for themselves.

Another example of the “miraculous signs” that did not materialize is Tonos, the company that had supposedly offered to Sun Ho a $5 millions contract to finance the launch of her career in the U.S. had actually stopped operations (see picture on the left) one year before Pastor Kong Hee made the contract offering claim in front of his congregation in 2005 . To put it simply, there was no $5 millions contract. The question is, how could Pastor Kong Hee make knowingly that claim in front of his congregation.

Finally the rationale given to justify the whole U.S. adventure is that 1) the way to influence Asia was through the Sun Ho’s U.S. success and that 2) at the same time, God had extended Pastor Kong Hee’s Christian renewal mission to cover the American continent as well. Pastor Kong Hee just listened and obeyed. There are a simple observations and reasonable questions we should we ask as follows:

  • We should ask why did they need to take the U.S. detour when it had been claimed in church that Sun Ho was already a very successful (multi-platinum) singer in Singapore, Taiwan and was breaking through in China (she was featured specially on a First-Day Cover Stamp-series in June 2004 and was invited to sing the anthem at the 2007 Special Olympic game in Shanghai among other things)?
  • God of course can extend the mission He has given to Pastor Kong Hee to include the U.S. as well. Pastor Kong Hee continuously claims that God talk to him and that as a faithful servant, he listens and obeys. This is of course very good for a Christian but we can observe an interesting trend ever since the Crossover project started.  It is interesting to observe that God seems to very conveniently agree to whatever Pastor Kong Hee wants to do and will bring him and his wife tremendous benefits. Did God ask Pator Kong Hee to move to the U.S. to spent a lot of money in order to enjoy the lifestyle of the “rich and famous”? Did God ask Pastor Kong Hee to fly Business Class to go home to the U.S.? Did He also asked him to quietly charge $700, 000 of his personal traveling expenses to the church? Or is Pastor Kong Hee extrapolating widely when interpreting the will of God?

Question 3: How does Sun Ho’s public statements and lifestyle in the U.S. align with the objectives of the Crossover project?

1. Why should this be considered an ethical dissonance issue?

While the Crossover project was almost exclusively – in terms of resources allocation – focussing on Sun Ho, her public statements in the U.S. is problematic as she appeared to quite clearly dissociate herself from the Crossover project as well as from City Harvest Church. During media interviews, when probed about her music and connection to CHC, she repeatedly declared that, “I don’t want to think of it as a crossover album” (example: South China Morning post Article “here comes the Sun”) also playing down her connection to City harvest Church as “just the church I’m affiliated to” (read the Article “Sun Rising“).

2. What is the CHC Leadership Rationale on this issue?

The rationale given by the church leadership is that Sun Ho had to go “undercover” because if  the secular world knew that her breakthrough attempt on the U.S. pop music scene was a Christian Evangelization project, she would have faced tremendous opposition. Pastor Kong Hee often referred to the bible and more precisely the book of Daniel to explain how Christians engaged in the marketplace like Sun Ho should behave. He stressed that Christians are in the world, but not of the world! Like Daniel, you have to engage society to be able to reach positions of influence where you can be a positive force for changes.  Daniel became a high ranking official in the court of the Babylonian king, exerting a strong influence to protect his fellow countrymen.  In order to achieve all these, Daniel had to be “in the world” from the outside looking and behaving like a Babylonian. But he was “not of the world” as he remained true to his faith to God and love for his jewish countrymen. So in summary like Daniel, Sun Ho was just playing a role. The role of a superstar in order to breakthrough on the U.S. pop music scene and achieve a position of influence where she would have been able to “shine for Jesus Christ” and reach into the lives of many people.

3. Critical Perspective on the CHC leadership’s argumentation

The CHC leadership came up with a very effective rationalization as when you buy into the explanation provided, it can justify almost anything. Whatever Sun Ho did that could look like “out of range” can and will be categorized as some kind of necessary “role-playing” for the sake of the Crossover project success. But does the end really justify the means? The question is: Where do you draw the line to make sure that you do not fall too deep and too far to avoid falling into the evil, depravity, and corruption of this world? In other words, how can we be in the world without becoming tainted by the world? Referring again to the Book of Daniel, I would like to point out that although he was indeed on the surface in many ways looking and behaving like a Babylonian, he did have very strict red lines. The most important of them was that he never denied or even played down his faith in God and his loyalty to his community. Even the threat of death did not make him waver. However when it comes to Sun Ho, one may wonder what were the red lines. We will discuss the issue of her U.S. stage personae in Question 4, but I would like to refer to some of the statements she made during media interviews. In those media interviews, when she was asked direct questions about her connection with CHC and her Christian faith, she either eluded the questions or made outright incorrect statements, for example denying that she was a pastor and claiming she was just a counselor in a church she is affiliated to (read the Article “Sun Rising” for more examples). It seems that Sun Ho was no Daniel after all.

Question  4: How does Sun Ho’s U.S. stage personae fit with the objectives of the Crossover project?

1. Why should this be considered an Ethical Dissonance issue?

The stage personae that Sun Ho adopted to try to breakthrough on the pop music scene in the US is another sticky point that we need to cover with regard to the U.S. road strategy. While the demure nice romantic girl personae that Sun Ho cultivated for the Singapore and Taiwan markets was easily connected to Christian values (even as she was singing secular songs), the much edgier ‘lady GAGA’ type of personae that Sun Ho morphed into for her U.S. adventure was understandably much more difficult to relate to the same Christian values that Sun Ho was supposed to promote. A Geisha dancer in China Wine, who end up with murderous thoughts in Mr Bill and a Gothic ringleader of outcasts in Fancy free may NOT be the kind of role models you would like to offer to your children, even when you are not Christian parents. You can follow the above links to see the videos for yourself. While we may appreciate (or not) the videos from an esthetic or musical point of view, you cannot blame many people – especially Christians – to wonder how this kind of personae and videos will help promote the Gospel values.

2. What is the CHC Leadership Rationale on this issue?

You can find on the CHC Crossover website the claim that the “US music market is much edgier and louder than the Asian music market” and therefore a demure nice romantic girl personae would NOT work there. It goes on to further explain that a personae is just an imaginary character, a role used in videos and performances obviously different from the real personality of the artist. And it conclude by declaring that using a personae is “just part and parcel of the music industry”.

3. Critical Perspective on the CHC leadership’s argumentation

So what was the CHC Crossover strategic breakthrough plan then? Was it to make edgier videos until Sun Ho could finally have a breakthrough on the U.S. pop music scene? And then once she had finally become a superstar, she would suddenly shine for Jesus Christ by strongly promoting her Christian faith and encouraging her fans to go to church? If that was the idea, CHC members may wish to question the wisdom of it.

Furthermore CHC members could also question the wisdom of the choices of artistic collaborations made to produce Sun Ho’s singles and albums. For example, the collaboration with renowned rapper Wyclef Jean is potentially questionable for a project of the nature of the Crossover. Why? Simply because besides the probably extravagant cost of hiring him, you could also be puzzled, as a CHC member, about this choice from an artistic and spiritual point of view considering that Wyclef has a track record of music that usually seem to glorify alcohol, sex and careless fun. It may seem a bit difficult to fit that “package” into a Christian evangelization project. Finally, do you really need to be “edgier” to succeed in the U.S. as claimed by the CHC Crossover website? If so, how then would you explain the phenomenal success of Celine Dion, Adele, U2, Coldplay, Justin Bieber and many more artists who did not have to overplay the supposedly edgier side of the U.S. music industry to succeed?

CHC Crossover or Sun Ho’s Crossover?

With all the above in mind, is it inappropriate to ask whether the U.S. stardom quest was really centered on God (except of course to provide the funds to finance it)? Or could it just have been the journey of a woman wanting to realize her own personal stardom dreams?

Sun Ho’s vs the 6 prosecuted CHC Leaders

CHC sun cleared to resume LeadershipConsidering the findings of the risk analysis that I have developed over my series of posts on the CHC case, many readers might be puzzled as to why Sun Ho, being the main beneficiary of the Crossover project, is not part of the group of the 6 CHC leaders being prosecuted in this case. While she was initially suspended from executive duties in CHC together with other leaders, the CoC has recently dropped their case against her and allowed her to resume leadership roles in CHC. Sun Ho was quick to claim victory and stressed that she had been totally vindicated by the decision made.

This very strange situation where the main beneficiary of suspected fraudulent activities can walk away free, while some other leaders who did not benefit from it (at least not directly) end up being prosecuted for it may seem to challenge common sense. But it can actually be explained quite easily when you consider that there is an important legal principle that applies here as follows:

Everyone charged with a penal offence should be presumed innocent until proven guilty in accordance to the law in a public trial at which he or she has had all the guarantees necessary for a fair defense.

This presumption of innocence means that it is the responsibility of the prosecution to prove the guilt of a criminal defendant and that he (or she) also has the right to a fair defence.

So contrarily to what Sun Ho claims, she has not been vindicated by the CoC decision to allow her to resume her leadership role in CHC and by the fact that she has not been prosecuted in the ongoing case. It simply means that both the CoC and the prosecution obviously felt that they did not have enough material factual evidences to link her directly to the suspected wrongdoings.

What does this actually means?  It could be interpreted in 2 ways:

  1. First, we could postulate that Sun Ho had no ideas of what was happening. That she really thought as she declared during interviews with various media that the crossover, her luxury lifestyle and her charitable activities were financed primarily by her royalties, recording contract, business venture revenues and some friendly businessmen (read the Article “Sun Rising“). She just sacrificially focussed on playing as convincingly as possible the title role of the “global super star to be” scripted for the Crossover project without asking questions.
  2. Second, we could on the contrary postulate that she was closely associated with many of the questionable decisions made. However, the fact that she had resigned from her Church position in order to Crossover to the secular side and hence was no longer officially directly involved in the management and decision-making in CHC,  may have helped to keep her away from the reach of the prosecution for now. Furthermore she could have only given face to face verbal instructions without leaving any written traces of them. In such a case, it may indeed be difficult to find hard material evidences to link her to the suspected wrongdoings.

Who paid for the Crossover?

The extravagant amounts paid to finance her pop music career, and her carefree,  luxury lifestyle in the U.S. have shocked many church members, the christians community and even the wider public who may have wondered what has it got to do with Christian evangelization works.  The important question here, is who paid for the “party”? This will be the subject of my next post entitled: City Harvest Case Part 6 – The Smog of the Crossover Financing.

27 thoughts on “City Harvest Case part 5: CHC’s Crossover or Sun Ho’s Crossover

  1. Just read your arguments. Very fair and interesting thus, especially from an insider’s POV. I have also commented a bit on this saga in my blog Anyhow Hantam, and also through another blogger Limpeh is Foreign talent. I shall highlight your points to him as well. Looking forward to the next installment

  2. china wine china wine china wine i convert to christian after listening to china wine dutty wine hahaha lol hahaha china wine dutty wine oh few very holy after listen to it even more holy when see the mtv hahahahaha lol …….what i think is that KH want to make it the way that when SH become polular and fasmous they can said the asset they have is earn by SH not from the church ,the way KH protray himself as a businessmen in later stage can tell too much money coming too easily and he do setup some business but the CHC members is not stupic the reason they are there is want to be suscessful but how many % can have the luck the rest of the members that give and didnt have the return see all those on top china wine dutty wine have property ,asset but dont have a proper job but they have to work nevermind still have to give must well make the kill take over the business without the CHC members help you think the government can have so much evident even when Suck Ho ask for legal fee donation who alert the COC the members themselves and the best part is need to borrow money rich indonasia guy say he is worth 500 million even 20 million he need to suck from the church he say he worth 500 million and when others sucker look at this rich businessmen get the lobang where can tahan make the move and kill maybe can take over this business miscalculation KH when you say having return become suscessful not simple people will go and they are not stupic people they are aggressive people ,and when they saw the wrong doing of KH u think can take it unless you have share even have share the cake cannot be share equally problem also come the whole incident same in business world weak and the strong weak can become strong but strong can become weak and get eaten too
    Above is all my free time KPO talk pls dont take it serious

  3. Very good analysis indeed. I hope at some point, you can include a coverage about the mentality of their members. It will be interesting to understand why after so much facts have been reviewed, both KH and SH are still able to get the support of some very prominent business leaders, their board members and Mr.Tong who is also their church members including some local artist who professes their love and support for their leaders openly.

      • HI Marc,

        Didn’t see any update to your blog for a long time. The 3rd leg of CHC trial has just ended. And we will see if the judge rule there is a factual case which the defence has to proceed.

        What are your thoughts base on your expertise in financial governance and on both the prosecution and defence claims in court so far?

        Henry Lim L S

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  4. I had a friendly exchange in comments with CHC member CP Teo on the post (dated 21/09/2013 on City Harvest Church (Official) FB) about the last day of 2nd tranche trial City News report.

    From Teo’s comments, I perceived some CHC members believe or make to believe church funds used to invest in Xtron are considered Xtron’s funds, no longer church funds. So using Xtron’s funds to finance Sun Ho is alright to them. This is what they think the defence line in court advocated. And Teo insisted the defence team had never said church funds are used to finance Crossover Project in court.

    Since your next blog will be “Who paid for the Crossover?” I would like to hear your comments on this CHC critical perspective. Thank You.

    Henry Lim

  5. Pingback: Former church treasurer Chew Eng Han open a can of worms liao - Page 18 -

  6. The analysis is fair and balance. I hope members of the CHC will read your post and view the matter objectively. This analysis must have taken many hours and digging many facts to present a proper perspective. I looking forward to read your next post (part 6). Good work and keep up.

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