Occupy Central is a proposed civil disobedience protest which would take place in Central, Hong Kong in July 2014 for universal suffrage. The movement is initiated by Benny Tai Yiu-ting, an associate professor of law at the University of Hong Kong, in January 2013.
Catholic diocese backs civil disobedience acts
The city's Catholic diocese has given qualified support to acts of civil disobedience such as that proposed by the Occupy Central campaign, saying citizens are justified in breaking the law if their rights are repeatedly denied.
The diocese also called on the government to remove all possible causes for civil disobedience and to launch a consultation on electoral reform immediately.
In the latest edition of the diocese's weekly publication Kung Kao Po issued today, the church said civil disobedience could be seen as "reasonable" in exceptional cases - when repeated demands against injustice were not properly addressed.
Whether Occupy Central's planned mass protest next July was reasonable would "depend on circumstances", it said.
In a 2,000-word statement in Chinese, the diocese said it believed any political system that deprived Hongkongers of a reasonable chance to elect their representatives in government was an infringement upon the people's basic civil rights. Such a situation had to be immediately rectified, it said.
Citizens should generally express their discontent or demands for reform through legal means, the diocese said. But if their repeated demands were not fully addressed, or if an undemocratic political system forbade citizens from rectifying the situation though proper means, civil disobedience was deemed reasonable within a limited scope, it said.
In a lengthy explanation of what civil disobedience meant, the diocese said the action should not only be "peaceful and non-violent", but participants must also decide to join it "by their own conscience". The action must also aim to eliminate injustice or the infringement of basic civil rights, it said.
Pan-democratic parties have supported the campaign while the government and senior Beijing figures insist that law-breaking activities are unacceptable.
The diocese said a democratic system was necessary for Hong Kong's well-being.
It urged the government to immediately launch a consultation exercise on the electoral reform, and called on all parties involved to engage in sincere communication and seek to remove all possible causes that could result in civil disobedience acts in the people's bid to achieve universal suffrage.
Vicar-general Michael Yeung Ming-cheung will meet the media today to elaborate on the diocese's view.