The Hong Kong Christian Council has chosen 33 potential members for the Chief Executive Election Committee in its first lottery round amid protests. Critics say that the results showed that the arrangements were designed to ensure that large, and possibly pro-government churches, secured the most seats.
The Basic Law requires Hong Kong’s leader to be chosen by a 1,200-member Election Committee, with 60 seats designated for the religious sub-sector. Within the sub-sector, the Christian community is entitled to ten seats, which are allocated by the Christian Council umbrella organisation.
The lottery arrangement
The Christian Council has come under fire after deciding to use a a two-round lottery to fill the ten seats, as opposed to general elections that the Council had adopted in the past.
Under the new mechanism, a Christian could enter the draw through four categories: denominations, churches, organisations and individuals. Ten candidates from each category would then be picked in the first draw. The second round is to select the final ten from the resulting pool of 40 candidates.
In comparison, the Catholic community uses the so-called “passive participation” method by holding one lottery round for all contenders.
Only 33 of the expected 40 candidates were picked in the second draw on Sunday, owing to the fact that only three contenders entered the lottery through the denomination category.
The Anglican Church’s pastor Reverend Koon Ho-ming, who has spoken against pro-democracy activism, is among the three candidates who were admitted to the second round without contention.
The “individuals” category had the largest number of contenders, with 460 Christians fighting for ten seats. There were 68 and 48 contenders in the organisation’s and church’s pools respectively.
‘Black box process’
Activist Derek Lam Shun-hin of the Demosistō party told HKFP that the results showed that the lottery arrangements had been manipulated to ensure that large churches dominate the seats.
“The ‘black box’ process through which the arrangements were decided is unfair to begin with,” said Lam. “It’s fine to have different categories for nomination purposes, but all contenders should have been placed in the same pool.”
Lam said that large denominations such as the Anglican Church had an advantage as they have many organisations and groups that could enter the draw separately. He said that of the 48 candidates in the organisation’s category, 25 come from pro-establishment churches.
Lam added that the Christian Council should have considered the issue of fairness instead of the interests of different parties.
The activist began a petition urging the Christian Council to reject China’s influence which he said was evident in the lottery arrangements.
The Christian Council General Secretary Po Kam-cheong told HKFP that the Council did not expect that there would be fewer than ten candidates in the denomination category. He said that the two draws were meant to restrict the number of nominations by large churches with thousands of members, rather than to favour certain groups.
“Given that only around 18,000 people voted in the last election, the previous system gave advantages to large churches,” said Po. There are more than 400,000 Christians in Hong Kong.
Po said the Christian Council will be reviewing this year’s arrangement. He added that the row is not uncommon given the current political climate in Hong Kong, but he does not see critics of the Council as “enemies.”
Around 20 people, calling the lottery a “bid rigging” process, protested outside the polling venue. They demanded the Christian Council “give up its privileges” and abandon the seats altogether.
Earlier this month, Christian activist Lam Chi-kin went on a 20-day hunger strike in protest of the lucky draw decision. He ended the protest after the Christian Council agreed to institute an independent committee to review the selection procedure for the ten seats of the Election Committee.
See also: Separation of church and state? Christians debate the role of religion in choosing the next Chief Executive
The Christian Council said it will submit the names of the 33 candidates in the next two weeks to the Registration and Electoral Office, which will hold the second lottery draw.
The religious sub-sector’s 60 seats provide ten seats each for six religions: Christianity, Catholicism, Islam, Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism.
The chief executive election is scheduled for March 26 next year.