Hong Kong Christians debate separation of church and state ahead of election of next chief executive

Christians in Hong Kong are currently debating the role of religion in politics as next year's election of the new chief executive draws closer.

(Reuters/Bobby Yip)Occupy Central founders at a press conference in a church in June.

The Hong Kong Christian Council, an organization made of several Christian groups, will hold a two-round lottery instead of an election to select ten representatives who will fill the seats at the Chief Executive Election Committee intended for the Christian community. The move has elicited mixed responses from local believers, with some accusing the Council of setting rules in favor of bigger or pro-government churches, the Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) details.

There are some Christians who have complained that the arrangements in the previous elections were set in favor of big churches, as most of the polling stations for the Election Committee ballot were located in large churches. The voting also occurred immediately after the Sunday services there.

"Some churches that served as polling stations even showed only the posters of the candidate they endorsed, and no posters of other candidates," Chinese University's Divinity School assistant professor Kung Lap-yan told HKFP.

Kung said the Council should give up the ten seats instead of focusing on the details of the election arrangement. He said religion should not dip its fingers into politics.

On the other hand, Christian Council General Secretary Po Kam-cheong explained that the two-round ballot aimed to prevent big churches from dominating the election and to give equal chance to each candidate. The Council believes that the arrangement will give ordinary members and leaders of smaller churches a bigger chance of being picked, the South China Morning Post reports.

"The new mechanism is actually not good for large denominations, because the four categories restrict the number of people that the denominations can nominate," Po told HKFP. "... A church with only 1,000 members and a big church can both only nominate one candidate. I don't see how our new arrangements favor large denominations."

The Council is set to draw lots on Oct. 10 to obtain a list of 40 candidates who will participate in another round of lottery. The list will then be narrowed down to 10 before December.