Hong Kong Bishop: Some Schools Might Close

If the Diocese Loses Legal Battle

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HONG KONG, DEC. 16, 2005 ( Zenit.org).- Bishop Joseph Zen Ze-kiun of Hong Kong says some Catholic schools could close if the diocese loses its legal battle against the government’s statutes.

He was speaking Dec. 8, the day after the Catholic diocese applied for a judicial review against the government’s education amendment bill passed into law last year.

AsiaNews, the information arm of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, explained the extreme measures of the new law, approved by the Department of Education, headed by Arthur Lee Kwok-cheung.

The new law provides incentives to schools that immediately implement its provisions such as insurance for the staff, flexible funding, annual bonus for each school worth $42,000.

However, schools that receive public funds, according to the law, must set up a School Management Committee, composed of students, parents, teachers and representatives of the community, which is legally separate from those in charge of the school.

Undue power

The government claims that this will ensure greater transparency and democracy; by contrast, school administrators say that it gives the government undue power to meddle in school affairs, said AsiaNews.

By and large, schools have refused to implement the law and have thus been penalized. This has led various Christian leaders to call the law «discriminatory and racist,» said AsiaNews.

Bishop Zen said he would take the case all the way to the Court of Final Appeal if the legal action was defeated in the Court of First Instance.

He said he hoped the court would not bow to political pressure.

«The government initiated the legislation» said Bishop Zen, «we just want to run education according to our Catholic philosophy. If we are given the chance to do it, we will do it. If not, we at least tried our best.»

Bishop Zen declined to estimate how many schools would face closure, saying the diocese would examine the situation of each one.

The Hong Kong Diocese runs around 300 schools.

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