During a National Day reception held for religious leaders on Tuesday, Hong Kong Christian Council Chairperson Rev Yuen Tin-yau directly admonished Chief Secretary Carrie Lam and China Liaison Office Deputy Director Yan Xiaojing, telling the pair “opposition will continue to exist as long as the system of government does not improve.”

Addressing Lam and Yan in his speech, Rev. Yuen Tin-yau also criticised China’s repression of Christians and called on Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and other officials to take the lead in building a society that welcomes divergent political views.

“A harmonious society,” Yuen said, “is not about having one unitary political ideology. To see different opinions in harmony is like a rainbow in the sky: only with different colours is it beautiful. Yellow or blue, they should all be there.”

Dignitaries at the National Day reception (Yuen Tin-yau on far right). Photo: Apple Daily.

Yuen later added that “if weasel words and blatant lies continue to exist in society… and [the government] forgets about the spirit of justice and does not care for the poor, there’s no way for society to achieve harmony.”

In his address, Yuen also directed criticism at the Liaison Office official for the wave of cross demolitions that has swept through Zhejiang province. “Religious freedom,” he told Yan, is “extremely important” for a healthy society.

Rev. Yuen Tin-yau. Photo: Apple Daily.

According to Christian news site Gospel Herald, over 1,200 church crosses have been taken down in the past a year and a half in the traditional Christian stronghold in eastern China. Authorities claim church cross demolitions are part of a campaign to remove “illegal structures” of all kinds in order to eliminate fire and safety hazards.

In August, Hong Kong’s Catholic Cardinal John Tong issued an “urgent appeal” to Beijing asking “that all unlawful acts of dismantling crosses be stopped.”

During last year’s pro-democracy Occupy protests, Yuen opened the doors of the Methodist Church in Wan Chai to demonstrators in need of refreshments, a place to rest, medical treatment or access to social workers.

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Ryan Kilpatrick

Ryan Kilpatrick is a local writer, journalist and editor. Formerly National Online Editor for the That's magazine group in China, his work on the history and politics of the region has earned him the CEFC Award in Modern China Studies and has also appeared in China Economic Review, Asian Studies Review, China Green News, e-International Relations, Shanghaiist and various publications at his alma mater, the University of Hong Kong, where he is currently enrolled in the Master of Journalism programme.