14 November 2018
Yeung Ming-cheung (inset) has suggested that Beijing used its power in relation to Hong Kong's mini-constitution without sufficient cause. Photos: Reuters, YouTube
Yeung Ming-cheung (inset) has suggested that Beijing used its power in relation to Hong Kong's mini-constitution without sufficient cause. Photos: Reuters, YouTube

New coadjutor bishop questions need for Basic Law interpretation

Yeung Ming-cheung, the newly-appointed coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of Hong Kong, has waded into the debate over Beijing’s recent controversial interpretation of Hong Kong’s mini-constitution.

Yeung, who was elevated in rank by Pope Francis on Sunday, said the move by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC), which blocked two young lawmakers-elect from joining the Legislative Council, is regrettable.

At a news conference on Monday, Yeung said the NPCSC does have the power to interpret the law in Hong Kong, but he doubts whether it was necessary to exercise that right in this particular case.

He was referring to China’s intervention in the case pertaining to Sixtus “Baggio” Leung and Yau Wai-ching, two young newly-elected lawmakers from the localist group Youngspiration. 

At an oath-taking ceremony last month, Leung and Yau created a controversy by unfurling banners proclaiming “Hong Kong is not China” and uttering some words deemed insulting to the mainland.

The actions led to the oaths being declared void and the Hong Kong government initiating legal proceedings to get the lawmakers-elect disqualified from Legco.

Even as a Hong Kong court was deliberating on the matter, Beijing announced an interpretation of the Basic Law and ruled that Leung and Yau must be barred from taking up their duties.

The ruling by the NPCSC has caused resentment among opposition groups, which felt that Beijing has undermined the judicial independence and autonomy of Hong Kong.

In the news conference Monday following his appointment to a key post in the Catholic Church in the city, Yeung Ming-cheung noted that Hong Kong has become a deeply divided society.

Widely expected to become the next bishop of Hong Kong, Yeung fielded a lot of questions from the media, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports. 

When a reporter raised the topic of Hong Kong independence, Yeung stressed that he is a Chinese-born and Chinese-loving citizen.

He agrees that Hong Kong people should worry about issues brought by the close relationship with China, like high real-estate prices and shopping problems.

However, the problems should not prompt people to seek independence for the city, he said.

Asked about next year’s chief executive election, Yeung said he will not gossip or comment on the election nor express support for any candidate openly.

When a reporter questioned Yeung as to whether he will be politically active like the former bishop Joseph Zen, Yeung said he lacks the wisdom that Zen has.

But he noted that even Zen has been less active politically, of late.

That said, Yeung stressed that not going to demonstrations doesn’t mean that one is not supportive of a particular cause.

Yeung had in the past caused dismay in LGBT circles as he used the word “drugs” in conjunction with a reference to the relationship between homosexuals, Apple Daily noted.

As Yeung and bishop John Tong Hon were at a Caritas Institute of Higher Education graduation ceremony on Monday, they were met with some protesters who held aloft rainbow pattern umbrellas and chanting slogans including “the right to marry is humanitarian”.

Yeung said some of his comments in the past had been misreported. Even if he doesn’t support gays, it doesn’t mean that he doesn’t love them, he said.

Yeung said he respects people’s right to protest and that he wants an inclusive society.

But when some students surrounded him and sought a pledge that the church will not stand in the way of sexual culture festivals, Yeung merely said he will try to understand the events.

He left the venue without promising anything.

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