Hong Kong cardinal wishes for peace after leadership race

Top bishop wants city to be ‘peaceful, progressive and where people can live happily’

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 November, 2016, 11:44pm
UPDATED : Friday, 18 November, 2016, 11:44pm

Hong Kong’s top bishop hopes the winner of the leadership race in March can “help the city to be peaceful and where people can live happily”.

Cardinal John Tong Hon spoke yesterday as more than 1,500 people were nominated to run for the 1,200-member ­Election Committee, which will choose the city’s leader.

The incumbent, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, has yet to announce a re-election bid.

Committee members will ­include 10 from each of the city’s six main religions, totalling 60.

After officiating at the 50th ­anniversary celebrations of the Catholic Marriage Advisory Council in Central, Tong was asked by the Post what kind of chief executive he would like the city to have in the next few years.

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“It depends on the people’s wish, we can only pray, and we need people to help Hong Kong to be peaceful, progressive and where people can live happily,” Tong said.

“An elected official is the public’s servant – this is always right regardless of place and time.”

But he declined to comment on whether the government has made the city a “peaceful place” in the past four years.

Critics of the current chief executive have blamed his “tough and combative” approach for the political divisions in society, while others have pointed the finger at the confrontational stance of the pan-democratic camp and the rise of pro-independence sentiments for the situation.

On Tuesday, the High Court disqualified two pro-independence Youngspiration lawmakers, Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching, who declined to take their oath according to the law last month.

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Instead of pledging allegiance to Hong Kong as part of China, the pair swore allegiance to a “Hong Kong nation” and used derogatory language that many Chinese found offensive.

The court judgment came after a Beijing interpretation of the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution. It ruled that lawmakers who declined to take their oath “sincerely” would be disqualified.

The ruling was then criticised by those in the legal profession, who saw it as a challenge to Hong Kong’s judicial independence.

Tong declined to comment on the controversy. “Politics is for politicians ... we are clerics,” he said.

“Religion encourages social harmony through communication, so that ultimately, people can live blissfully and heaven can be manifested on earth.”

On Monday, the newly ­appointed coadjutor bishop of the Catholic diocese of Hong Kong, Michael Yeung Ming-cheung, was besieged by ­protesters on his first day in the post over his stance on gay rights and other issues.

Yeung, who was expected to succeed Tong next year, had attended a graduation ceremony at the Caritas Institute of Higher Education in Tseung Kwan O.

During the proceedings a group of students held up banners and rainbow flags in protest.

Regarding the protests, Tong said yesterday that while students were free to express their views, they must learn to respect others.

“We have always opposed legislation [against discrimination based on sexual orientation], we are trying our best to express our views,” he said.

Tong also expressed ­confidence that Yeung “can unite the church in evangelism and social service”.