CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Chief executive on a mission impossible

HONG KONG (UCAN): The former chief secretary and number two in the current administration, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, was selected as the next chief executive in a widely criticised exercise by a panel of 1,186 people on March 26.

Collecting support from 777 members of the Election Committee, she came in well ahead of her nearest rival, John Tsang Chun-wah, with 365 and Woo Kwok-hing with 21.

Leo Ip Hing-cheung, from the Catholic Religious Subsector at the selection process, said that he believes there has already been interference in Hong Kong affairs by Beijing and in all likelihood it will continue.

With the usual to and fro of claim and denial, Bruce Lui Ping-kuen, from the Baptist University, commented, “Lam won not through her own strength, but through Beijing’s blessing and the Hong Kong Liaison Office, which lobbied for her and exerted pressure on electors, particularly those from the pro-Beijing camp and business sectors.”

He added, “She may have to pay her supporters back later.”
The Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council in Beijing denied the claim.

The former bishop of Hong Kong, Joseph Cardinal Zen Ze-kiun, picked up on the fiasco Lam created when she included the possibility of establishing a Religious Affairs Unit in the territory in her election manifesto.

Although she later backed off, saying that she would drop the idea, the suggestion prompted fears that a Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association look-alike could emerge in the special administrative region.

Cardinal Zen described the idea as stupid, explaining that in all likelihood the idea had come from Beijing and that Lam did not understand how controversial it would turn out to be.

However, despite Lam’s promise never to act on it, the cardinal thinks that it may not be the end of the matter, as some religious leaders in the city could well support it.

Ying Fuk-tsang, from the divinity school at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, cautioned, “We need to closely observe if she retables the policy later on the grounds that some religions support it.”

By taking office on a promise to unite a polarised population, Lam has set the bar high, as the burning issue of universal suffrage is not going to go away and she seems to be indicating that she will not do much about it either, making it a bit of a mission impossible.

Instead, she pledged to run down the line drawn by the current chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, which in many places is taken as a promise of more of what the city got from the unpopular chief executive.

This prompted the chairperson of the Justice and Peace Commission, Paul Ng Wai-kit, to comment that because Lam did not get any votes from the pro-democracy subsectors in the Election Committee it is difficult to imagine bridges of understanding being built across the political and social divide.

“Mending relations will be difficult. But it will be an opportunity for the pro-democrats, who have been split since the Umbrella Movement to be united again,” Ng commented.

He said that he thinks that Beijing’s waving of the wand over Lam reflects that it wants a hardliner at the top, not a more moderate leader like her main opponent, the popular Tsang.


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