A senior bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong has said that he embraces his Chinese heritage and “loves Chinese culture,” dismissing the idea of independence as “absolutely impossible.”

Michael Yeung Ming-cheung, 71, was promoted to coadjutor bishop by the Vatican on Sunday. He is expected to succeed Cardinal John Tong Hon, whose term expires next year.

Michael Yeung Ming-cheung
Michael Yeung Ming-cheung. File

‘Chinese blood’

Yeung said on the first day of his posting that he believes Hong Kong independence is “unfeasible.”

“Chinese blood flows through my veins. I was born in China, my parents are Chinese, and I love Chinese culture – how can I say that I’m not Chinese? The ties [between China and Hong Kong] cannot be cut completely,” Yeung said.

The bishop said he believes Hongkongers do not actually desire independence, but only want to keep a distance from the mainland in light of China’s encroachment in recent years.

He said the solution is to uphold the Basic Law and the One Country, Two Systems policy, not discard them. Yeung added that he regrets Beijing’s ruling on the Basic Law in response to the oath controversy.

LGBTQ issues

Yeung has made controversial remarks in the past on LGBTQ issues. During last year’s District Council elections, the Catholic Diocese was criticised for attempting to influence election results after Cardinal Tong asked Catholic voters to take note of the candidates’ stances on sexual orientation discrimination laws.

john tong
Cardinal John Tong. Photo: Hkdavc, via Youtube.

In defence of Tong, Yeung said: “Even if your children do drugs and you disagree with them, you would still love them because they’re your children.” His analogy added fuel to the controversy at the time.

Yeung clarified on Monday that the press misquoted him by leaving out a sentence: “not to mention homosexuality is not the same as drug taking.”

On Monday, students protested against the Catholic Diocese’s conservative stance on LGBTQ issues during a graduation ceremony of two schools run by Caritas Hong Kong.

In response, Yeung said the Catholic church is tolerant of young people. “It is impossible to ask young people to be obedient. As long as they respect others, as long as they don’t affect or harm others, they are free to display the rainbow flag,” he said.

“Their preference may not be the same as mine, but I respect their choices,” Yeung added.

catholic diocese LGBTQ
Students protested against the Catholic Diocese. Photo: Action Q, via Facebook.

China-Holy See relations

Yeung said Monday that he admires Cardinal Joseph Zen, the most senior Chinese cleric in the Catholic Church, for his wisdom. Zen is best known for his liberal views and support for Hong Kong’s democracy movement. He has also criticised the Pope for making concessions to the Chinese government despite its continuous crackdown on churches.

Yeung, on the other hand, said he is optimistic about China-Holy See relations. “It is impossible to expect both sides to agree on everything overnight,” he said.

Baptist University’s senior lecturer of religion Chan Sze-chi said that the Holy See likely views Yeung as a “loyal executor” of its policies, unlike Zen who is unafraid of speaking his mind on political issues.

The Civic Party’s former lawmaker Kenneth Chan Ka-lok, who is a Catholic, said that Yeung is a “kind” character but “out of touch” with current affairs.

Chan added that Yeung has closer ties with the rich and powerful than with the rest of the Catholic community. He expressed hope that Yeung will uphold the Catholic ethos and social justice.

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Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.