CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Bishop calls for unity in the face of Beijing intervention

HONG KONG (SE): Speakers at a seminar on the interpretation handed down on November 7 by Beijing on Article 104 of the Basic Law, which requires the chief executive, principal officials, members of the Executive Council and of the Legislative Council, in addition to judges of the courts at all levels to obey the Basic Law, described it as a big challenge to the judicial system in Hong Kong, as well as the One Country, Two Systems principle.

The seminar, organised by the Justice and Peace Commission and the Catholic Commission for Labour Affairs on November 17 at St. Vincent’s Chapel, Wong Tai Sin, called on the people of Hong Kong to confront the intervention.

Benny Tai Yiu-ting, an associate professor of law at the University of Hong Kong, said the interpretation is not only an attack on the judicial system of the special administrative region, but also on One Country, Two Systems.

The National People’s Congress Standing Committee stipulated in its interpretation that a public officer must take an oath in a solemn and sincere way, but Tai questioned the ability of the administrator of an oath to judge whether behaviour is solemn and sincere or not.

He said Beijing’s amendment has deprived two people, Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching, who were elected to the Legislative Council (LegCo) in September, of their political rights, as well as ignoring the political will of the tens of thousands of people who voted for them.

He described the first interpretation of the law made by Beijing in 1999 on the right of abode issue as destructive, but many people in Hong Kong just accepted the wisdom of using an interpretation to solve an immediate problem without looking at its long term impact.

Tai believes that people only paid attention to the result, without understanding the importance of proper procedure or justice, equating it to failing to firmly uphold the rule of law.

Avery Ng Man-yuen, the chairperson of the League of Social Democrats, said that many people felt powerless and frustrated after the Umbrella Movement in 2014, and since then, he has observed that the campaign for democracy has been scattered and splintered, with some people even resorting to violence.

He said Hong Kong must stay alert and work to change the status quo peacefully through street rallies and a variety of large-scale protests.

Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing spoke of the responsibility of the Church, saying that he believes it needs to wake up to the spiritual power its people can exercise and the influence parish social concern groups can have on the development of civil society.

The auxiliary bishop of Hong Kong was insistent that the Church should not look at the issue with indifference and encouraged people to develop a spirituality that believes social justice can win out over what he referred to as evil structures imposed on the city.

But he lamented that some parish social concern groups have gone into the doldrums and are finding it hard to drum up interest in their work.

He said that he wants to encourage parishes to unite and join formation and exchange programmes to build up a sense of community, as it is easy to lose heart where nothing or little is done to empower people.

The Justice and Peace Commission had released a statement on November 11 saying that the interpretation is not only a direct interference in the administration of the law in Hong Kong, but amounts to an amendment of the Basic Law, as it bypasses all legal procedures.

The commission describes it as distorting the law by interfering with the normal function of the judicial system of Hong Kong.

The statement from the commission describes the interpretation as taking a dominant position over the judicial independence of Hong Kong and the right of local authorities to legislate, as well as the principle of the separation of judicial and executive powers.

It adds that the Basic Law does not mention the role of the administrator of any oath, but the interpretation has specified the authority of the administrator, as well as adding the criteria of judgement to its role in the process of taking an oath, which cannot be assessed by objective criteria.

The commission says it is fearful that these new criteria will be utilised to suppress alternative opinion in the special administrative region.

It also expressed fear that in the future, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee will find ways of barring people elected to the LegCo who have taken part in the candlelight vigil commemorating the Tiananmen Massacre on June 4 or the traditional July 1 rally from taking their seats.

Reverend Choi Yeung-mei, who initiated the Mission Citizens Campaign, said that the Church must always speak the truth in the darkness and support the marginalised.

She added that every Christian has a priestly duty to bring hope in the midst of darkness and hopes that the Umbrella Movement will have a uniting effect on all Protestants so they will work together in fulfilling their mission, instead of separately within their own denominations.

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