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Hundreds of Hong Kong Catholics apply for Chief Executive vote

Those chosen will be eligible to nominate candidates for top position in 2017

Hundreds of Hong Kong Catholics apply for Chief Executive vote

Thousands of people joined a rally on July 1 to demand CY Leung, the chief executive of Hong Kong, step down. A 1,200 member strong committee will elect the city's chief executive on March 17 next year. (ucanews.com photo)

ucanews.com reporter, Hong Kong
Hong Kong

November 25, 2016

A record-breaking number of applications have been received by the Catholic Church in Hong Kong for the chance to sit on the election committee that will select the fifth chief executive there.

The election committee confirmed on Nov. 19 that 60 electoral positions would be spread among six major religions: Buddhism, Catholicism, Confucianism, Islam, Protestantism and Taoism. As electors, they are eligible to nominate candidates for the top post and will cast their ballots in the final vote on March 26, 2017.

Ten Catholic electors were decided by drawing lots among 318 applicants, a sevenfold increase on the previous election in 2012.

Since the handover of Hong Kong by the United Kingdom to China in 1997, the diocese only verifies the Catholic identity of applicants and presents the list of names to the government. The church has refused to play an active role in the election because it disagrees with a system where a small committee of 1,200 members represents a population of 7 million.

"Political reform has stood still since 2014 and the government fools people into thinking that the electoral system is the same as universal suffrage, I think we have to fight for something in an active way and draw more attention to the election, rather than just opposing it," Catholic elector Kris Leung told ucanews.com.

Leung, a member of the social concern group of the Rosary Church, does not expect much from the new chief executive. "He will not be one who splits society or tackles mismanagement," he said.

Many local people are calling for "ABC," which stands for "Anyone but CY Leung," the incumbent chief executive who is accused by some of running a bad administration.

Retired Justice Woo Kwok-hing is the only person so far who has announced that he is running for the post, under an "ABC" ticket. Other rumored potential candidates include two Catholics — the Chief Secretary Carrie Lam and the Financial Secretary John Tsang.

While most of the electors in past votes were pro-Beijing or were accused of having vested interests, Law Wai-chung, an applicant who failed to become a Catholic elector, said this time is different.

"This is the first chief executive election after the Umbrella Movement for democracy in 2014," Law said. "I believe many people want to join the election committee because they do not wish to see Leung's re-election," he said.

The Hong Kong Christian Council, an ecumenical body of Christian churches in Hong Kong, has received 579 applications for the 10 seats reserved for the Protestant Church.

"I have tried to fight against the system from the outside but I did not seem to get very far. Society is affected by having such a small number of voters and the situation is deteriorating. If we do not try to make some changes, I will feel sorry for myself and the next generation," said Law, a pastoral worker with three children.

However, the record-breaking participation has disappointed the Catholic diocese's justice and peace commission.

"Most of the 300 applicants did not state why they want to join the election committee. People may think the Catholic diocese has changed its stance towards the election," Jackie Hung of the commission told ucanews.com.

"We continue to hold that Catholicism should not be used for gaining political privilege in an unfair election from which the majority of the population is excluded," she added.

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