Beijing endorses HK campaign for Confucian holiday

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 23 April, 2007, 12:00am

A senior state official in charge of religious affairs yesterday indicated Beijing's first public support for a plan in Hong Kong to make Confucius' birthday a public holiday, saying the long-standing demand by Confucians should be realised as 'a natural development'.

But Qi Xiaofei, deputy director of the State Administration of Religious Affairs, dampened hopes for a campaign by leaders of Hong Kong Confucians to push for greater recognition of their religion on the mainland.

Speaking on the sidelines of a Taoist forum in Xian , Mr Qi said he was glad to hear that Confucians in Hong Kong might soon have a public holiday to celebrate their figurehead's birthday - on a par with Christians and Buddhists in the city. 'Of course, I am happy to see it happen,' he said. 'A public holiday for them would be a natural development.'

The Confucian Academy in Hong Kong, led by its president Tong Yun-kai, has been pushing for the plan, with the proposed construction of Hong Kong's first Confucian temple in Wong Tai Sin, for many years.

Last year, he quoted Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen as saying that he would not oppose the holiday plan as long as consensus was reached by other religious groups.

Both Catholics and Protestants have already indicated their acceptance that one public holiday at Easter could be swapped to commemorate the philosopher's birthday on the 27th day of the eighth month in the Lunar calendar.

But Mr Qi said the academy's long-standing campaign to lobby the central government to include Confucianism as the sixth official religion on the mainland was premature.

At present, Buddhism, Taoism, Catholicism, Protestantism and Islam are officially recognised as the mainstream religions on the mainland.

'A systematic religion is more complex than being just created by people. The five main religions in the mainland recognised by the state administration have a very long history,' Mr Qi said.

'They didn't just happen overnight and have always been there. We respect Confucian philosophy, but we have no plans to make any changes yet.' He said Confucianism had never taken the path of a systematic religion except in ancient China. 'We should let things take their own course.'

Mr Tong, who was also in Xian to attend the forum, was glad to hear support from state officials on Hong Kong's plan for a new Confucian holiday.

But he said he would continue to lobby for greater recognition for Confucianism on the mainland when he met other state officials this week.