Leung Chun-ying

‘That’s irresponsible’: Hong Kong’s top Anglican rejects calls to give up Christian seats on body electing city’s chief executive

Most Reverend Paul Kwong also denies he’s a government yes-man

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 March, 2016, 11:20pm
UPDATED : Monday, 28 March, 2016, 11:34pm

Protestants must not give up their 10 seats on the body that could decide Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s re-election if he runs next year, the archbishop of the Hong Kong Anglican Church has said, rejecting a call to boycott the influential committee.

In a rare interview, his second since taking over the helm at the church in 2007, the Most Reverend Paul Kwong told the Post that, contrary to accusations, he was not a government yes-man. He claimed he had, behind closed doors, urged officials to communicate with different sectors and explain their policies more clearly and frequently.

Kwong declined to say if he supported Leung’s re-election, but he said he believed the chief executive “loves Hong Kong”.

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In 2012, Leung was elected with 689 votes from a 1,200-member Election Committee comprising business elites, professionals and 10 representatives from each of the city’s six major religions.

There are about 500,000 Protestants in Hong Kong, including as many as 40,000 from the Anglican Church. In 2011, the Christian Council organised a poll and picked 10 representatives to sit on the election committee, but a group of Protestants has been calling for the 10 seats to be vacated, as a way to boycott the chief executive election next year.

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In September last year, the Post reported that the council’s then chairman, Reverend Yuen Tin-yau, was alone among leaders of the city’s major religions in suggesting that Christian churches “could give up” their seats. Other leaders brushed off the idea or declined to commit to it.

Yuen stepped down in October, and his successor Reverend Eric So Shing-yit said that an internal discussion on the topic would wrap up in the first half of the year.

But Kwong said the Anglican Church – a member of the council – believed the 10 seats allocated to the Christian Council should be filled.

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“Christians should not decide on our own that we are giving up the seats. That’s irresponsible,” Kwong said. “If you think the committee was unjust, you don’t need to run for the seats, but you cannot deprive other followers of their right either.”

Kwong, who is not a member of the Election Committee, had this to say of Leung: “I don’t even know if Leung will be running for a second term, or who his challengers will be, but I think all chief executives love Hong Kong and do not want to destroy our city, so there is no problem as to who takes the chief executive job.”

Kwong added he did not know if Hong Kong could be more harmonious under a different leader, as “there was also a lot of public discontent” during the time of Leung’s predecessors.

“My view is that we should start with ourselves: What can I do if I love and care about the city,” he said. “For me, I would think of what I can do with the [Anglican network of] churches, schools and social services to bring peace and reconciliation.”