POLITICS

One cleric's view: religious bodies should give up role in Hong Kong leadership election

Christian Council chairman calls for scrapping of religious seats on committee that picks the city's leader, but other clerics do not agree

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 September, 2015, 3:42am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 September, 2015, 8:47am

Hong Kong's Protestant churches "could give up" their 10 seats on the committee that elects the city's leader as it was "unfair" for people to get extra representation because of their faith, a heavyweight among the city's Christian churches has said.

However, the Reverend Yuen Tin-yau, chairman of the Christian Council, was alone among clerics of the city's six major religions, as leaders of the Muslim, Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian communities said their seats on the 1,200-strong Election Committee should not be scrapped.

Cardinal John Tong Hon, bishop of the Hong Kong diocese, hinted that the Catholics' 10 seats should be retained.

In a written reply to a Post inquiry, Tong said: "We encourage our lay people to play an active role in politics in order to promote democracy and the well-being of society. With regard to the Election Committee, the role of the diocese is just to verify the Catholic identity of those who wish to fill the 10 seats."

The committee, which elected Leung Chun-ying as chief executive in 2012, comprises four sectors - business, professional, social and political - divided into 38 subsectors. The religious subsector occupies 60 seats evenly distributed among the six religious groups, but the representatives are appointed or approved by leaders, not elected.

Political scientists have questioned the mandate of the committee as most of its members - all except the religious subsector and 70 ex-officio Legislative Council members - are elected by just 250,000 people, less than 10 per cent of the city's electorate.

Yuen said the committee was unfair as the electorates of subsectors were "imbalanced".

"In the past we wrote to the government, telling them if they review the committee's composition, we can give up those seats … But since they don't seem to be having such a review, we will discuss [taking the initiative]."

Other clerics opposed Yuen's idea.

Ebrahim Yeung Yee-woo, honorary secretary of the Chinese Muslim Cultural and Fraternal Association, argued that since religions "guide people towards rationality and good behaviour", they should have a role to play in electing the chief executive.

"I think harmony among religions would help to achieve social stability and harmony as well," he said.

If various religions achieved unity, "hundreds of thousands of people won't be engaging in conflicts".

Yeung said the association's 10 members on the election committee represented about 300,000 Muslims of different nationalities.

Similarly, Taoist Association chairman Leung Tak-wah said religious leaders had a responsibility to take part, while Buddhist Association executive vice-president Sik Hong Ming said Buddhists should not want to give up their seats - and should in fact be having more. ""There are not many Confucians in Hong Kong, maybe only 20,000 to 30,000" but there are at least a million Buddhists, he said.

"We hope to use our vote to tell people what kind of political leader we want to have - this is necessary," Sik said.

Confucian Academy president Tong Yun-kai suggested Confucianism's national importance explained why they should have a say.

"It's impossible for us to destroy our [rights] and cut our votes … because our country must have our tradition, culture and a spiritual core to be everlasting, otherwise it will only become another former USSR," which fell apart in the 1990s, he said.

Tong Yun-kai, Yeung and Leung are members of the Election Committee, but Yuen, Sik and Cardinal Tong are not.