CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 19 August 2017

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Record number apply for Election Committee

HONG KONG (UCAN): A record-breaking number of applications was received by the diocese in Hong Kong to fill the 10 positions allocated to the Catholic Church from the 60 allotted to the religious sector for a seat on the Election Committee that chooses the chief executive.

The diocese received a record 318 applications to fill the 10 spots, a sevenfold up on the last election in 2012. The final 10 were decided by lottery overseen by officials from the Electoral Commission.

The 60 positions allocated to religion are equally spread among Buddhism, Catholicism, Confucianism, Islam, Protestantism and Taoism. Electors are eligible to nominate candidates for the top post and will take part in the final vote on March 26 next year.

The diocese maintains that its only role in the process is to verify the Catholic identity of applicants. It then presents the list of names to the government.

The Church has refused to play an active role in the election and disagrees with the system, calling the small committee of 1,200 unrepresentative of a population of seven million.

“Political reform has stood still since 2014 and the government fools people into thinking that the electoral system is the same as universal suffrage, I think we have to fight for something in an active way and draw more attention to the election, rather than just opposing it,” an applicant for one spot, Kris Leung, said.

Leung is a member of the social concern group of the Rosary parish in Tsim Sha Tsui and does not expect much from the new chief executive. “He will not be one who splits society or tackles mismanagement,” he said.

Retired judge, Woo Kwok-hing, is the only one so far to announce they are running for the post. Rumored potential candidates include two Catholics—the chief secretary, Carrie Lam Cheng Yeut-nor, and the financial secretary, John Tsang Chun-wah.

While the Election Committee has been, or at least been accused of being heavily pro-Beijing or holding vested interest in the past, Law Wai-chung said this time is different.

“This is the first chief executive election since the Umbrella Movement for democracy in 2014,” Law said. “I believe many people want to join the Election Committee because they do not wish to see Leung’s (current chief executive, Leung Chun-ying) re-election.”

A pastoral worker in his parish, Law added, “I have tried to fight against the system from the outside, but I did not seem to get very far. Society is affected by having such a small number of voters and the situation is deteriorating.”

He said that if we do not try for change now, we will regret it in the future.

But Jackie Hung Ling-yu, from the Justice and Peace Commission noted, “Most of the 300 applicants did not state why they wanted to join the Election Committee. People may think the Catholic diocese has changed its stance towards the election.”

 

“We continue to hold that Catholicism should not be used for gaining political privilege in an unfair election from which the majority of the population is excluded,” she explained.

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