Church Urges Hong Kong Government to Ask Citizens About Reform

Calls for Democratic Government, Universal Vote

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The Catholic Church in Hong Kong is urging the government to consult citizens on political reform, an issue that recently led to 450,000 people taking to the streets and a civil disobedience movement called “Occupy Central.”

The Catholic Church issued a statement last Wednesday to call upon the government to “begin formal consultations on the appropriate electoral reform model without any further delay.”

There were some 450,000 people who protested July 1, the 16th anniversary of the return of Hong Kong to China, to ask for a democratic election for the next government head (formally known as Chief Executive of the government in the city).

The Basic Law, the mini-constitution of Hong Kong, stated that the city may ultimately elect its government head “by universal suffrage” with “the principle of gradual and orderly progress” from 2007 onwards.

Though there is a promise of universal suffrage, Beijing and the Hong Kong government are hesitant to launch a political reform.

“Occupy Central,” which was organized by Christian law professor Benny Tai and a Baptist pastor Rev Chu Yiu-ming, was initiated under this political deadlock.

The movement aims to strive for the election of the government head by “universal and equal suffrage” in 2017, through a series of campaigns and an ultimate act of civil disobedience – a non-violent sit-in in the Central Business District in July, 2014, so as to raise local awareness of the democratic appeal and draw international media attention.

In its July 24 appeal, the Church in Hong Kong acknowledged that “there have been growing concerns that ‘genuine universal suffrage’ for the election of the Chief Executive in 2017 might not be achieved,” and in particular that there are worries that the Basic Law might be restrictively interpreted and the election of the government head will be “in fact not truly in accordance with democratic procedures”.

The Church said that a democratic government was “essential for the well-being of Hong Kong” and the government should consult people on the political reform.

It also invited all stakeholders to enter into and maintain a sincere dialogue to find solutions that will take away the “root causes for civil disobedience and realize the goal of universal suffrage.”

The pro-Beijing camp accuses the “Occupy Central” movement of being destructive to Hong Kong society, and especially harmful to the economy of Hong Kong, since the sit-in may bring a cease to many economic activities in the business area.

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Francis Wong

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