09/10/2004, 00.00
HONG KONG - CHINA

Hong Kong Christians go to the polls

Hong Kong (AsiaNews/SCMP) – On the eve of parliamentary elections leaders of Hong Kong Christian Churches urged their members to vote on Sunday September 12. For this all Christian denominations have organised meetings to convince the politically-indifferent and the election-weary among the territory's 500,000 Christians that it is important to take part in the political process. For many years, Catholics and Protestants have been in the forefront of those demanding universal suffrage, a right denied under both British and Chinese rule.

Throughout the year, rally after rally, people have demanded fully democratic elections to both the Legislative Council (LegCo) and the post of Chief Executive. Currently, only half of all LegCo members are directly elected. The other half is elected indirectly through functional constituencies representing various sectors of society. The territory's Chief executive is appointed by Beijing.

Mgr Joseph Zen, Catholic Bishop of Hong Kong, and for many a champion of democracy, said: "The present situation is not ideal as we lack democracy. But what we can do this Sunday is to turn up to vote, because by voting we can grasp what little democracy we are allowed by the system and fulfil our duty."

The outcome of the elections is also in the hands of prayers. A public prayer meeting is scheduled for tomorrow in Kowloon's Rosary Church.

Protestant Churches have also mobilised. Reverend Eric So Shing-yit, general secretary of the Hong Kong Christian Council –which includes most Protestant denominations in the territory– said that "Christians, as citizens, have the duty to bear witness to our faith in society. Voting is part of it."

The Council will hold a prayer meeting tomorrow at Ward Memorial Methodist Church in Yau Ma Tei, a densely populated neighbourhood in Kowloon.

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