Hunger strike over, fire in his belly
Catholic Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze- kiun marked the end of his three-day hunger strike yesterday by praying with supporters outside the Salesian Community House in Chai Wan.
He also held a press conference to issue another condemnation of a Court of Final Appeal ruling that weakened the Catholic diocese's control over schools it operates.
'I regret [the hunger strike] wasn't too tough,' he said. 'I wanted to feel bad as I want to express grievance. But it wasn't that bad after all.'
The court dismissed the diocese's appeal against management reforms for aided schools that require sponsoring bodies to set up management committees to which they can appoint only 60 per cent of members, not 100 per cent as at present. The diocese claims the reforms mean it may no longer be possible to deliver a Catholic education.
The cardinal, 79, reiterated yesterday that the diocese would not withdraw from sponsoring schools after the ruling. Civil disobedience would only hurt students, he said.
Zen has courted controversy with his frequent criticism of the Hong Kong and national governments, and is seen by some to have adopted too high a political profile for a spiritual leader.
The hunger strike was not the only event that put him in the headlines last week. Leaked documents showing Zen received millions in donations from media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying prompted him to say he had used the money to help the poor and members of underground churches on the mainland.
Zen said yesterday that Lai, who visited him on Friday, did not talk about the donations.
'We didn't have any discussions [about the donations]. He just wanted to ensure that the [hunger strike] over the new [school management] law should be made known internationally,' he said.
Tam Ka-man, a nine-year-old who turned up to support Zen yesterday, said she hoped the hunger strike would not hurt his health. 'Not eating is bad for health. I hope 'Grandpa' will be healthy,' she said.
Clara Cheung, another supporter, said it was unfair to criticise Zen for accepting donations. 'He spent a lot of money on many people, including new immigrants living in Sham Shui Po,' she said.
The amount, in HK dollars, that media tycoon Jimmy Lai gave Cardinal Joseph Zen to promote his causes