CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 20 May 2017

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D-Day for chief executive

Just 20 years after Hong Kong returned to Chinese sovereignty, a new chief executive will be selected on March 26 by the 1,194-strong Election Committee.

In 1997, Tung Chee-hwa left the business sector to become the first chief executive of Hong Kong. He was followed by the veteran civil servant, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen. In 2012, Leung Chun-ying, a professional who had also held public office, won selection.

But Hong Kong people have been asked to somehow embrace highly mixed bag of contradictions, as they have witnessed stagnant development in the political system, public discontent with policy and the 831 Decision of Beijing putting limits on the political process.

That decision from Beijing was the trigger for the Umbrella Movement in 2014, which is not only the most important chapter in the modern history of Hong Kong, but also stirred up deep-rooted conflicts in society that has torn it apart.

Since the Umbrella Movement, the public has harboured concern over whether Leung would seek a second term or not. In the end he did not, but it remained a big issue in the formation of this year’s Election Committee and among Christians from the Religious Subsector.

Debates among the three candidates, media analysis of their political platforms and previous performance, have created a heated atmosphere. But this is mostly a show, as this is not an election by the people, but a selection with an invisible hand pulling strings.

What Christian groups should fight for is universal suffrage so that the chief executive becomes accountable to the citizens. The Justice and Peace Commission led a detailed discussion in its Declaration on the Election of the Chief Executive in 2017 issued in early March.

The commission is saying that personal participation in civic action against the small circle election is necessary to work towards a truly universal and equal election system.

It is still our hope that despite the shortcomings in the system, the new person at the top will understand that they are at the service of the whole Hong Kong population and give particular care to the disadvantaged and the needy.

The commission is concerned that the policies implemented by the government on livelihood, education and the economy will be in line with human rights and the common good.

In its mid-March declaration, Expectations for the New Chief Executive, the Catholic Commission for Labour Affairs proposes that the new chief executive should promote family-friendly labour policies, including legalisation on standard working hours and overtime, as well as formulate a universal retirement protection system which is not means tested.

Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s controversial proposal to explore the setting up of a religious affairs bureau was strongly opposed by the diocese and other Christian groups.

Lam quickly backtracked, but the question arose as to whether the candidates had bothered to check on the current structure that already assigns religious issues to the Home Affairs Bureau.

It should also be asked whether the diocese and Christian organisations in general are in solidarity with the general public on issues related to the public good or not.

Vatican II reminded us that the joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of people, especially the poor and afflicted, are the joys and hopes, griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. SE