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  • » 01/18/2010, 00.00

    HONG KONG – CHINA

    Card Zen calls for referendum to decide Hong Kong’s democracy

    Annie Lam

    Pro-democracy parties want to use by-elections in five Hong Kong constituencies to show how much Hong Kongers want universal suffrage. Surveys indicated that at least 60 per cent of residents want full-fledged democracy. A few days ago, mainland China issued a statement claiming that the referendum is against the territory’s constitution and that such a step cannot be taken.

    Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – Card Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, called on the territory’s Christians to vote for the referendum on universal suffrage two days after the Chinese government said that “Hong Kong had no authority to launch a referendum.”            In fact, it is not a referendum in the proper sense of the term, but rather five by-elections that will have to be called to replace five members of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo) who plan to resign in late January in protest against the government’s slow pace at implementing full democracy for the Special Administrative Region.        Five candidates from pro-democracy parties will run in the five ridings, and voting for them will be viewed like a referendum in favour of democracy and universal suffrage.

    At a forum on constitutional reform organised by Catholic and Protestant groups, Cardinal Zen urged all citizens including Christians to support the de facto referendum as a way to push forward Hong Kong's democracy movement.

    "I’m angry at the local government’s political reform proposal which offers neither progress nor any direction. It gives people no choice, but have to accept it,” Cardinal Zen said.

    Under current rules, only half of all LegCo members are chosen by direct election; the other half is made up of members elected in functional constituencies.

    For several years, pro-democracy parties and the population have been pushing for the direct election of all lawmakers, but mainland China has blocked the change, postponing it perhaps until 2017.

    In the past weeks, pro-democracy parties have also called for the abolition of functional constituencies as unfair because they allow some voters to cast their ballot twice, first in direct election and then in functional constituencies. The government has however rejected the demand.

    LegCo member and referendum promoter Wong Yuk-man spoke at the forum. He said that he would resign from the legislature in late January and would view the ensuing by-election as referendum on universal suffrage. “No change, no gain in democracy,” said Wong, who is Protestant.

    Dr Kung Lap-yan, acting director of Hong Kong Christian Institute, stressed the importance of participation for Christians. For him, Christians must not demonise those they do not like because everyone is made in God’s image. He told forum participants that democracy and prosperity go hand in hand, and urged Christians to be politically active and monitor the parties and politicians.

    The Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, an agency of China’s State Council that manages ties between the mainland and the two special administrative regions, issued a statement on the matter, saying that the idea of referendum in Hong Kong is “fundamentally against the Basic Law” agreed by China and the United Kingdom before the former British colony was returned to China.

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    See also

    03/07/2007 HONG KONG – CHINA
    Only democracy can guarantee a just society, says Cardinal Zen
    For the first time ever the bishop of Hong Kong, Card Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, has taken part in the July 1 pro-democracy march in the Territory ten years after it was returned to mainland China. He makes a strong plea to the government and the population as a whole to choose the way of democracy.

    30/06/2014 HONG KONG - CHINA
    Hong Kong's democracy referendum makes history
    The unofficial poll attracts 800,000 voters. The Alliance for True Democracy, which supports universal suffrage, wins. Its "three track" proposal would also allow the public, the nominating committee, as well as political parties, to put forward candidates. For organisers, the vote "was the largest scale of expression of public opinion in the city's history."

    03/03/2010 HONG KONG
    Card. Zen advertises in the press: Vote for Justice and Democracy
    Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong appears is in a full page ad in his clerics and in a signed message calls for participation in the elections that have been transformed into a "referendum on democracy." The wrath of Beijing.

    24/12/2004 HONG KONG - CHINA
    Christmas fosters hope burdened by politicians' 'decadence', says Bishop Zen
    Bishop calls on parents to spend more time with children. "Being with them," he says, "is the most precious gift you can offer."

    05/05/2010 HONG KONG – CHINA
    Justice and peace Commission urges vote for democracy
    Many (including Cardinal Zen) view the May 16 by-election as a de facto referendum on universal suffrage. The region’s government has proposed a new package of political reforms (backed by Beijing), which are seen as inadequate by pro-democracy parties and Catholics.



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