ucanews.com reporter, Hong Kong
Updated: July 21, 2016 09:02 AM GMT
Anglican Archbishop Paul Kwong of Hong Kong, right, during a church service in this file photo. (ucanews.com file photo)
Anglican Archbishop Paul Kwong of Hong Kong has called for greater dialogue with mainland China on July 20, adding that he "deplored" a growing sense of division and discrimination among his countrymen.
He also sought to downplay criticism about his close ties with the political powers in Beijing, defending it as a means to softly push policy change.
Speaking at the 10th annual gathering of the Ecclesiological Investigations International Research Network, a four-day conference that began July 20, Archbishop Kwong outlined what he called increasing polarization in Hong Kong society.
"There have been disturbing incidences between Hong Kong people and visitors or tourists from the mainland. There has been a growing sense of discrimination, xenophobia and Hong Kong people first attitude among many people," Archbishop Kwong said.
"Some politicians, unfortunately with an eye on votes (are) calling for restrictions and reductions of quotas of immigrants from the mainland," he said.
"As I have said publicly on more than one occasion, I deplore such views, which stand in opposition to family reunion and are not in line with the basic human rights and justice."
Archbishop Kwong said Hong Kong should move more positively, to "build up rather than to tear down."
"We should think together about what actions the church should take to promote reconciliation in our polarized society so we can move toward some kind of peaceful coexistence," he said.
Archbishop Kwong defended his membership in the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference — a Chinese government advisory board — arguing that his position offered the rare chance to for him to press China on contentious issues such as the cross removal campaign in the eastern province of Zhejiang.
"We continue to address issues of injustice in China and in Hong Kong in a Chinese way. We do this quietly and do not shout from the rooftop or mount public campaigns," he said.
Archbishop Kwong has come under fire in the past for criticizing Hong Kong's outspoken pro-democracy movement, which saw three months of "Occupy Central" protests in late 2014 which are also referred to as the Umbrella Movement.
At the gathering, Archbishop Kwong appeared to lay the blame for increasing divisions between Hong Kong and the mainland at the foot of Occupy Central.
"In the wake of the Occupy Central movement, there has been increasing polarization in our society," said Archbishop Kwong.
The day after Archbishop Kwong's speech, Joshua Wong, a youth leader who helped drive 2014's pro-democracy protests was found guilty of taking part in an unlawful assembly. Wong now faces up to two years in prison.