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Closed-circle elections not democratic

March 25 is the fifth Sunday of Lent. In the gospel reading of the Mass, Jesus Christ speaks of himself as a grain of wheat that falls to the ground and dies. He rose from the dead three days after being crucified, opening the way to salvation to all people. This text is a timely reminder of the virtues of faith, hope and charity.

March 25 also sees the election of a new chief executive in Hong Kong. The campaigning in this closed-circle election has been described by the local media as mud-wrestling, as the two front-runners have both been embroiled in scandal and their integrity questioned.

Though these candidates have been shunned by people in the street, either of them could still be voted into office as the chief executive by the 1,200-member Election Committee. Under this system, whoever is elected will lack legitimacy in the eyes of the public.

Since Hong Kong returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, there have been four elections for a chief executive. Rather than steering Hong Kong towards democracy, as the propaganda claims, democratic development has regressed.

The first chief executive, Tung Chee-hwa, resigned during his second term of office. As his term was incomplete, the current incumbent, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, completed it and was then elected in his own right. He is currently the butt of allegations concerning conflict of interest and the controversy is far from being resolved.

During the nomination period in the current race, local media revealed that the home of Henry Tang’s wife has an illegal structure and the other front-runner, Leung Chun-ying, is under suspicion of conflict of interest for his role in the concept planning competition for the West Kowloon Cultural District in 2001.

He is also suspected of involvement with black gold politics, dealing with triads. Nevertheless, both of these candidates will still have the support of a large number in the Election Committee.

The committee structure is contrary to the basic principles of democracy. Although different sectors and functional constituencies are represented, most come out of vested interest groups.

As a result, the voice of the grassroots is ignored and government policies continue to be formulated in favour of conglomerates, leading to a widening gap between rich and poor.

The consequence runs counter to the social teaching of the Church, which says, “(The Church) cannot encourage the formation of narrow ruling groups which usurp the power of the state for individual interests or for ideological ends” (46, One Hundred Years—Centesimus Annus).

Participation is a right and duty granted by God to human beings to govern the earth (Genesis 1:28).

However, the Election Committee limits people’s right of participation. The Church is of the view that participation “cannot be confined or restricted to only a certain area of social life, given its importance for growth—above all human growth…

“In this perspective, it becomes absolutely necessary to encourage participation, above all, of the most disadvantaged, as well as the occasional rotation of political leaders in order to forestall the establishment of hidden privileges” (189, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church).

In hope of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we should fight for the abolition of the small circle election and the development of our society through across the board participation. SE