CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Divisive in society and in Church

HONG KONG (UCAN): The announcement on December 9 from the current chief executive of Hong Kong, Leung Chun-ying, that he would not be running for a second term in March when the 1,200 member Electoral Committee convenes to choose the next person to fill the city’s top political spot, was met with relief in some quarters where he is seen as a divisive figure, including echelons of the Church.

Leung’s tenure was destined to be contentious since he came into power with the backing of only 689 members of the Election Committee in 2012 and it is widely believed that Beijing did not want to see Leung fail in securing a second term, which would harm the image of its rule of Hong Kong.

“Leung takes political struggle as his agenda, sacrificing social harmony along the way,” Venisa Wai, a member of Hong Kong Federation of Catholic Students, said.

Louis Kwan, a young Catholic teacher, added that many people disliked the chief executive’s commentary on the city and heavy-handed style.

The massing of the huge crowd that gathered in Admiralty on 28 September 2014, the night the 79-day civil disobedience Occupy or Umbrella Movement was declared open in a call for universal suffrage and fully democratic elections for the chief executive and the Legislative Council, was triggered when police fired tear gas to disperse people supporting the students in street.

“Some people accused Leung of using the police as a political tool. Support for the government dropped to its lowest level and Leung never tried to fix the relationship,” Kwan pointed out.

Wai said that after 2014, the chief executive had the opportunity to lead society in reconciliatory manner. “But he started to attack advocacy for Hong Kong independence immediately, to create another conflict that split society further.”

Kwan recalled that during the political reform discussions of 2014, “Leung said the religious and sports sectors did not contribute to the economy, which many people took exception to.” He recalled, “Many people were angry with his words.”

He added that in addition, he was surprised at the way in which patriotic groups that support Beijing blossomed during Leung’s term, as despite labelling themselves as patriotic, these groups—believed to have backing from the Communist government—only increased tensions in society.

One group, which noisily calls itself the Silent Majority, even met with Zhang Dejiang, the chairperson of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, and one of the seven members of the elite Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China.

Wai added that she believes Catholics too were divided over Hong Kong’s political upheavals.

“There was a huge polarisation in discussions about whether we should support the civil disobedience movement in 2014,” Wai said.

She cited an example of a parish friend who thought the young protesters were too radical and disrupting the very peace that the Church is promoting. “But I think if he understood Church social teaching, he would think differently,” she said.

Kwan explained that there were different political stances at his parish as well, but parishioners avoided discussing social issues among each other to avoid embarrassment or arguments.

Lina Chan Lai-na, the secretary of the Justice and Peace Commission, worried that parishioners were tired of debates in society and avoided talking about them so as to maintain a harmonious Church community.

But Wai believes that the greatest damage to Hong Kong under Leung’s leadership may well be what he did to the institutions and the core values that have traditionally ensured social stability.

Chan is also critical of Leung’s administration for its collusion with business cronies over land development in the rural district. But her greatest concern is over the independence of the city’s respected judiciary, which was encroached upon by Beijing over the disqualification of two young pro-independence lawmakers in November.

“Even though we do not enjoy much democracy, we take procedural justice seriously,” Chan said.

Kwan offered the opinion that the judicial review initially put forward by Leung’s office seeking to disqualify the two pro-independence lawmakers in October is also breaking the principal of separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary.

He said that it just created further conflict in society.

“There are many more of his evil deeds. We have lost our patience,” Kwan concluded.

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