Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - The bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, Card. Joseph Zen has decided to march for 84 hours around the territory in an attempt to harness citizens' participation in an unofficial referendum that calls for full democracy in Hong Kong and universal suffrage for the election of governor in 2017.
The referendum was proposed by Occupy Central, a civil disobedience movement, which has occupied an area of the City, close to the Houses of Parliament and the Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank for months.
The referendum aims to prove that the majority of the population of the former colony want a real democracy and will be held June 20 to 22. At present only half of Hong Kong's parliament is elected by popular ballot; The governor is elected by a committee dominated by Beijing. Years ago, Beijing had promised that "maybe" in 2017 full democracy would be implemented for Hong Kong, but at the moment all reform appear frozen, although the Basic Law (Hong Kong's mini-constitution, signed by Beijing) allows for the discussion of full democracy from 2007.
An advert in the Catholic paper Kung Kao Po said that starting from Saturday, Card. Zen would embark on a seven-day campaign to march in most of the city's 18 districts in order to call for Hongkongers to vote in the "referendum". Zen is expected to walk for about 12 hours and cover 20km a day. Catholic groups have agreed to accompany him. The march will be very difficult mainly because the cardinal is now 82 and current temperatures in Hong Kong are about 32 degrees Celsius, with very high levels of humidity.
The struggle for democracy in the region is also supported by the other cardinal, John Tong, the current bishop of Hong Kong, even if more discreetly. In an article in Kung Kaopo (May 26), he states that a democratic system of government is a necessary condition for the well-being of Hong Kong's population. He hopes that with a genuine dialogue, a system for the nomination of candidates and the Chief Executive based on effective democratic mechanisms can be established. For Card. Tong, the referendum "can give concrete expression to public opinion."
The strong demand for a plan for democratic elections in 2017 has however, aroused the wrath of Zhou Nan, former director of the Xinhua office in Hong Kong. In recent days he has accused "anti-China forces" of using the Occupy Central movement £to try to seize control of Hong Kong's administration and that the Chinese army would step in if riots were to occur in the city.
Yesterday, Zhou Nan received an indirect reply from the Secretary for Justice, Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung, who said that "the police [Hong Kong] are capable of managing any activities that might damage law and order "and that there is no need to call in the Chinese army.