Government treats us like idiots, cardinal says

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 November, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 November, 2009, 12:00am

The former head of the Catholic Church in Hong Kong said last night the government was treating people like 'idiots' with its electoral reform proposals, which he described as a further departure from democracy.

Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun also said the administration should be held responsible for holding up the pace of Hong Kong's democratisation if the package was again vetoed in the legislature, as was the case in 2005.

The cardinal, a vocal advocate of democracy and human rights, spoke after attending a gathering with Chinese University students.

'[The government] clearly knows that their proposals are not democratic, but they still put them forward ... there is not even a [road map] towards democracy. They have gone too far, treating us as idiots,' he said. 'It is worse than having no progress, perhaps. It is departing farther away from democracy.

'Why should we accept something that is not good?'

He urged Hong Kong people to express their discontent if they found the government proposals unacceptable. But he declined to comment on whether legislators should resort to mass resignations to press the government to make concessions.

Meanwhile, Britain urged universal suffrage in Hong Kong that was in line with international standards, which it said would be the best guarantee of the city's stability and prosperity.

In a statement covering London's reaction to the Hong Kong government's political reforms proposal, the British government also called for those who want to retain functional constituencies to explain how that could meet the international standards of universal suffrage.

The statement was issued by the British consulate in Hong Kong yesterday.

While the proposal calls for more seats in the legislature and for expansion of the committee that selects the chief executive, opponents say this does not go far enough. They want functional constituencies abolished.