UCA News

Outgoing Hong Kong govt head splits church, society

CY Leung criticized for harming territory's core values that have ensured social stability

Outgoing Hong Kong govt head splits church, society

Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung during a press conference on Dec. 9 where he said that he would not run again for office and would step down at the end of his term in July, citing family reasons. (Photo by AFP)

Published: December 14, 2016 10:28 AM GMT

Updated: December 14, 2016 10:30 AM GMT

When CY Leung, the unpopular chief executive of Hong Kong, said on Dec. 9 he would not seek a second term in elections next March, there was relief as he was seen as presiding over the division of Hong Kong society that has extended to the church.

Intensely pro-Beijing, Leung's tenure is destined to be contentious since he got elected with only 689 votes from the 1,200-member Election Committee in 2012. It is widely believed that the China's ruling communists did not want to see Leung fail to get enough votes in the re-election, which in turn harms the image of Beijing's rule of Hong Kong.

"Leung takes political struggle as his agenda, sacrificing [Hong Kong's] social harmony along the way," Venisa Wai, a member of Hong Kong Federation of Catholic Students, told ucanews.com.

Many people disliked Leung's commentary on the city and heavy-handed methods, said Louis Kwan, a young Catholic teacher.

A 79-day Occupy Movement, a civil disobedience action also known as the Umbrella Movement, designed to fight for universal suffrage for the election of the chief executive and the Legislative Council, was triggered on Sept. 28, 2014 when police fired tear gas to disperse citizens in support of the students in the movement.

"Some people accused Leung of using the police as a political tool. Support for the government dropped to the lowest level and Leung never tried to fix the relationship," Kwan said.

Wai of the student federation and a law student at the University of Hong Kong said after 2014 the chief executive should have led society in reconciliation. "But he started to attack the advocacy on Hong Kong independence immediately to create another conflict that split society further," said Wai.

Kwan recalled that during political reform discussions in 2014, "Leung said religious and sports sectors did not contribute to the economy."

"Many people were angry with his words," Kwan recalled.

Some people were surprised to see patriotic groups that supported Beijing blossoming during Leung's term, Kwan said.

Despite labeling themselves patriotic, these groups — believed to have backing by the Communist government — increased tensions in society.

One of these groups, who say they are the "silent majority," even met with Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress and one of the seven members of the elite Politburo Standing Committee of the party that runs China.

Division enters the church

Wai, the university law student, said Catholics were also divided over Hong Kong's political upheavals.

"There was a huge polarization in discussions about whether we should support the civil disobedience movement in 2014," said Wai.

She cited an example that a parish friend thought the young protesters were too radical and disrupted the peacefulness that the church promoted.

"But I think if he understands the church's social teaching, he would think differently," she said.

Kwan said there were different political stances at his parish but parishioners avoided discussing social issues among each other to avoid embarrassment or arguments.

Lina Chan, executive secretary of the diocesan Justice and Peace Commission (JPC), worried that parishioners were tired of debates in society and avoided talking about them so to maintain a harmonious church community.

Destroying core values

The greatest damage to Hong Kong under Leung's tenure is his destruction to the city's institutions and the core values that have ensured social stability, Wai said.

Chan, of the JPC, criticized Leung's government of collusion with business cronies over land development in the rural district. One of her core concerns was about the independence of the city's respected judiciary, which was encroached upon by Beijing over the disqualification of two young pro-independence lawmakers in November.

"Even though we do not enjoy much democracy, we take procedural justice seriously," Chan said.

Kwan said the judicial review initially put forward by Leung's government seeking to disqualify the two pro-independence lawmakers in October is also breaking the principal of separation of powers in the government.

It just created further conflict in society, he said.

"There are many more of his evil deeds. We have lost our patience," Kwan added.

Help UCA News to be independent
Dear reader,
November begins with the Feast of All Saints. That month will mark the beginning of a new UCA News series, Saints of the New Millenium, that will profile some of Asia’s saints, “ordinary” people who try to live faithfully amid the demands of life in our time.
Perhaps the closest they will ever come to fame will be in your reading about them in UCA News. But they are saints for today. Let their example challenge and encourage you to live your own sainthood.
Your contribution will help us present more such features and make a difference in society by being independent and objective.
A small donation of US$5 a month would make a big difference in our quest to achieve our goals.
William J. Grimm
UCA News

Share your comments

Latest News

Asian Dioceses
Asian Pilgrim Centers
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia