Beijing’s white paper on the “one country, two systems” would only encourage Hongkongers to vote in Occupy Central’s citywide poll next week, says pan-democratic heavyweight Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun.
“[This is because] Hongkongers still care about their dignity. They would hit back if they are repressed and forced to be slaves,” Zen told Commercial Radio’s talk show On a Clear Day this morning.
He was referring to the “white paper” which has sparked fierce criticisms from pan-democrats and the legal sector since its release on Tuesday. The document stresses that Beijing holds “comprehensive jurisdiction” over Hong Kong and says the city’s administrators – including the judges – should “love the country”.
Tomorrow, Zen will embark on a seven-day march across most of the city’s 18 districts to call for Hongkongers to vote in the June 20-22 referendum, alongside Occupy Central advocate Reverend Chu Yiu-ming and other pan-democrats.
The referendum, commissioned by Occupy Central organisers and to be conducted by the University of Hong Kong, would ask people to pick their preferred electoral reform proposal out of three shortlisted by 2,500 Occupy Central supporters last month.
“This is a very unique opportunity … for Hongkongers to express their views,” he said.
Zen added that people should vote even if they do not support any of the three proposals -- which all support public nomination. Pan-democrats have been demanding the right for all registered voters to nominate chief executive candidates but the idea has been repeatedly banned by Beijing.
“We are not asking whether these plans would succeed, but whether you like them or not,” he said. “The more people expressing their preference on the proposals, the more hope there will be [for the plans to succeed].” He hoped that 300,000 Hongkongers would participate in the poll and that the government would listen to the people’s voices.
Zen said he was still considering whether to join Occupy Central, a campaign to mobilise 10,000 people to block main roads in Central if the government fails to offer a satisfactory reform plan. Zen said he feared that there might be uncertainties.
These included Beijing’s threat to deploy the People’s Liberation Army to handle the event and outsiders’ attempt to ruin what is intended to be a peaceful rally. “I need to see if there’s any danger … but if there’s hope [in the campaign], I would consider joining,” he said.
The 82-year old Cardinal also fears that he could not witness the city’s democracy.
“The recent development seems to reflect that Beijing doesn’t dare to give [democracy] to Hong Kong,” he lamented. “But I still need to speak up and fight for it.”
He urged the government officials who spearheaded the reform, including Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, to listen to more “children’s singing” and keep some childhood innocence.
“Keep the conscience and not to be a slave,” he said.