For Card Tong, Beijing’s electoral reform needs action to remedy its “democratic deficit”
The bishop of Hong Kong speaks out on the stalemate that is prevailing in the territory, caught between mainland pressures and the need for compromise on electoral reform and universal suffrage. For the prelate, who calls on the faithful to pray, there is no democracy without justice.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – In a pastoral letter on the ongoing stalemate in the former British colony, Card John Tong Hon notes that Hong Kong’s process of electoral reform need three things: a new attitude by those involved to overcome “misunderstanding, misrepresentation and distrust,” changes to the government proposal “to remedy the democratic deficit”; and prayers on the part of the faithful.

For the prelate, this is due to a decision taken in August 2014 by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress of Beijing to draft an electoral reform bill for Hong Kong, which is identical to the one presented by the Hong Kong government.

In practice, mainland China wants to pick the candidates for the office of Chief Executive, allowing Hong Kong voters to choose from a list of two or three candidates screened by an election committee made up of members close to China.

After Beijing’s pronouncement, tens of thousands of people joined the ‘Occupy Central with Peace and Love’ movement, which peacefully held in check the local government for months, asking for real democratic reform.

Things now are at a standstill. To be approved, the proposal needs the vote of some pro-democracy lawmakers who have already announced that they would vote against it.

If the draft proposal is rejected it is unclear what will happen. Certainly, the election for chief executive in 2017 will take place under current rules, i.e. by an Election Committee whose members are selected or elected within a number of functional constituencies.

In his letter, Card Tong writes, “electoral reform and universal suffrage are also our concerns as Christians because a sound political system is intimately linked with the well-being of society."

This matters because of the “widespread concern over the package and the current impasse. The community’s anxieties are aggravated by pressing livelihood and other social issues which the Diocese has, more than once, identified as also requiring urgent attention and action."

For the cardinal, Catholics must first respond with prayers. The “Diocese believes that through earnest dialogue and responsible action it is possible to implement in Hong Kong an electoral model that is genuinely democratic, whereby we can break the present electoral reform deadlock, promote the common good, and further the people’s love of Hong Kong and of the country.”

In line with Gospel values, the Diocese has stated that “justice cannot be achieved by confrontation or violence, but by mutual dialogue and the concerted, peaceful efforts of all parties concerned. At the same time, the Diocese believes that there can be no true or sustainable peace and stability in society without justice.

“Thus, on the matter of electoral reform, the Diocese has made it clear that the ultimate aim of universal suffrage as mandated by the Basic Law cannot be realised unless, among other things, the nominating committee is truly broadly representative and the procedures adopted are genuinely democratic.” Therefore, “There should be no unreasonable or unjust restrictions to the choice of candidates.

In view of this, “the Diocese wishes to make three recommendations:

“First, that positive encouragement be given to all concerned to work together to address the causes behind the polarised positions, including misunderstanding, misrepresentation and distrust.

“Second, that a concerted effort be made to remedy the democratic deficit and other perceived deficiencies in the current electoral reform package.

“Third, regardless of whether the package is passed or rejected, that our faithful continue to pray for and support fresh efforts to find constitutionally sound and morally just solutions that will contribute to the peace and well-being of Hong Kong society.”