RELIGION

Hong Kong’s Protestants drawing lots for election committee places is ‘ridiculous’, activists say

Christian Council due to pick representatives for the body that chooses city’s chief executive, but critics say system is unfair

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 October, 2016, 9:55pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 October, 2016, 10:31pm

Protestant activists have criticised as “ridiculous” an arrangement whereby churches will draw lots to pick their representatives on a body that will choose the city’s new chief executive next March.

They are upset over a decision made in July by the Christian Council, an umbrella group of 21 congregations, organisations and denominations, to reject calls by some followers for it to vacate its 10 seats on the 1,200-strong Election Committee that votes on the city’s leader. The council instead ruled that its representatives would be picked by drawing lots.

The committee is made up of business elites, politicians and 10 representatives from the city’s six major religions. It will vote on whether to award a second term to Leung Chun-ying, who is widely expected to seek re-election.

10 slots on body that picks Hong Kong’s chief executive thrown open to city’s 500,000 Protestants

The council’s leadership argued that by drawing lots, ordinary believers and leaders of smaller churches would have a bigger and fairer chance of being picked as representatives than they would in an election among all churchgoers. It is estimated there are about 500,000 Protestants in Hong Kong.

Activists were particularly irked by a two-round process devised by the council. Under its framework, any Protestant can take part in the first round as long as they have gathered 20 endorsements. Church members, congregations, Christian organisations and denominational governing bodies – registered as charities under the city’s tax laws – can each put forward one candidate of their own under the system.

The council will draw lots on October 30 to ensure only 10 candidates from each of those four groups – totalling 40 hopefuls – will enter the second round. They will then be whittled down to a final 10 before December.

Protestants to decide on seven for election body

But David Cheung, a pastor of Narrow Church, said the process was unfair as those from larger churches and organisations would enjoy an advantage in the first round.

“There could be 500 ordinary followers fighting for 10 seats, while there could be only 20 representatives from as many denominations contesting another 10 ... There are also 30 seats for clerics – how can the council say the system is fair,” Cheung said.

He suggested the 10 Protestant representatives should be picked from a single pool in a single round, as done by Catholics.

However, the council’s secretary general Reverend Po Kam-cheong said it was impossible to change the system now as the nomination period began last week.

“The decision was made after listening to followers’ views,” Po said. “But I would not rule out the possibility of vacating the 10 seats or following the Catholic model before the chief executive election in 2022.”