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

Any church member who gathers 20 nominations can enter draw

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 July, 2016, 10:18pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 July, 2016, 10:55pm

Hong Kong’s 500,000 Protestants “will have a bigger chance” of joining a committee that elects the city’s leader next March after church leaders decided they would be allowed to take part in a draw to pick the representatives.

The decision on Tuesday came weeks after the Christian Council, an umbrella group of 21 churches, denominations and societies, rejected activists’ calls for them to vacate their 10 seats on the 1,200-strong Election Committee, but agreed to choose its representatives by drawing lots.

Christian churches remain on Hong Kong election committee

The ruling highlighted the churches’ attempts to respond to followers’ diverse demands amid the political divisions resulting from the Occupy protests for greater democracy in 2014. Protestant activists had called for the council to give up its 10 seats on the committee as a protest against the city’s failure to secure direct election of the chief executive.

Reverend Po Kam-cheong told the Post that the council decided that lots would be drawn in two rounds.

Any Protestant can take part in the first round as long as they have gathered 20 nominations from church members, while each church, Christian organisation and denomination can put forward a candidate of their own. The council will then draw lots to ensure only 10 from each of the four groups – totalling 40 hopefuls – will enter the second round. The final 10 will be decided in that round.

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In 2011, months before Leung Chun-ying was elected chief executive, the council organised a poll in which about 17,000 Protestants elected 10 representatives to sit on the committee made up of business elites, professionals, politicians and 10 representatives from the city’s six major religions.

Po said: “It is more likely that ordinary believers will be picked this time. In the 2011 poll, well-known candidates had a bigger chance, but now all candidates’ chances are equal.”

But Democratic Party member Lam Tsz-kin, who has been calling for the 10 seats to be vacated, was upset. He said instead of dividing candidates into four groups, lots should be drawn from one group in one round.

“This is shameful. I think they just wanted to make sure big churches and famous pastors keep some of the 10 seats,” Lam said.

Dismissing the accusation, Po explained that candidates were also nominated through those four channels in 2011.

“We are keeping the four groups this time exactly because we don’t want big churches to put forward a lot of candidates and enjoy a much bigger chance of dominating the seats. We hope everyone has a chance.”