Bishop Zen Ze-kiun vows to take legal action against the parliament he publicly defended against Chinese communism
THE CATHOLIC Church in Hong Kong is threatening to sue the island’s government over a proposed law transferring control of church schools to the state.
Bishop Zen Ze-kiun of Hong Kong, is said to be ready to file a lawsuit against the Hong Kong Parliament if the controversial “Education (Amendment) Bill 2002” is passed this week.
He said: “The Church is set to sue the government because, according to Basic Law article 141, religious organisations may continue to run schools according to their previous practices. We must sue the government over this blatant violation.” In the last few months Catholic, Anglican and Free churches in Hong Kong have repeatedly asked the government to withdraw the Bill moving to a full and direct control of the government over school management.
The Bill requires every government-aided school to form a School Management Committee (SMC), separate from the Church. Bishop Zen said the Bill, once enacted, would bypass the Church and lead to the direct intervention of the government.
The Bill is ostensibly aimed at enhancing teacher/parent participation in school management, but Alice Woo, the Episcopal Delegate of Education, said Catholic schools in Hong Kong have already successfully worked for such goals.
Bishop Zen also criticised the government’s offer to delay full enforcement of the Bill to 2012 as meaningless, saying the law was badly drawn up.
Catholic leaders organised a candlelight vigil outside the Legislative Council to pray against the legislation.
“We know that the Bill will pass with so many pro-government legislators sitting on Legco”, Bishop Zen said, “but what we are praying for is a miracle. We appeal to the Liberal Party to vote according to their conscience.” There are some 320 Catholic education institutes in Hong Kong. Together with the schools run by the Protestant church bodies, they represent half of the schools in the city.
Earlier last week, Bishop Zen supported the local parliament when he led protesters in support of its rights in the face of reforms proposed by the Chinese government.
He joined 530,000 people in a march to demand the right to directly elect their government.
Before the protest, Christians held a prayer rally, as has been the custom at the annual event.
The protests came after Beijing’s rejection of an open election for Hong Kong’s chief executive in 2007 and legislature in 2008.
Organisers said protesters filled almost three times the area of the soccer fields at Victoria Park, where the march began, and estimated that the fields held 170,000 people when full.
Bishop Zen told a prayer rally in the park that Christians wanted to tell the Chinese government about the “suffer ings” people have experienced in Hong Kong and their demand for justice.
The possibility of direct elections was rejected before Hong Kong residents had a chance to discuss it, Bishop Zen told the rally.
A Catholic and a Methodist church along the route to central Hong Kong were kept open for Christians to pray along the protest route. More than 500 protesters became weak under a burning sun and sought medical attention during the march.
Jackie Hung Ling-yu, spokeswoman for the Civil Human Rights Front, told UCA News that the aim of the protest was to call for “a return of power to the people”.
The slogan was meant to demand direct elections for Hong Kong, said Hung, a protest organiser, whose coali tion of 40 groups included Catholic organisations.
Miss Hung is a staff member of the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese’s Justice and Peace Commission.
Democracy activist Martin Lee Chu-ming, a Catholic and Hong Kong legislator, told UCA News that even though Beijing rejected direct elections in 2007 and 2008, it was worth protesting “with a hope to fight for it for the future.” Tsui Pak-to, a Catholic protester, said he participated in order to continue fighting for democracy. He hopes the government will consult the public more in making and implementing policies.
Another Catholic, Raymond Choi, said he took part in the rally to voice his concern with government policies.
Others told UCA News that since the 1997 reversion the government has failed to improve the quality of life in Hong Kong, especially for the poor and needy.
Ting Wai, a Catholic scholar at Baptist University, said the protest represented citizens’ discontent with the local government’s handling of affairs.
“Unless the local government improves its policies, there will be more such protests in the future,” Ting said.
Hong Kong residents are also worried about the central government interfering too much in local issues, he said.
Ting said there was a possibility of July 1 commemorations becoming a kind of “ritual” to mark people power in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong, a former British colony, became a special administrative region of China when Britain handed it over in 1997. The “one country, two systems” policy was supposed to guarantee Hong Kong certain rights.