Calling for more understanding, official 'makes friends' with HK's business and religious leaders - but not democrats A top mainland official yesterday issued a Buddha's birthday call for people to be more understanding and accommodating, vowing to 'make new friends' in an attempt to heal Hong Kong's political rifts. Liu Yandong, director of the Communist Party's United Front Work Department, made the call as she opened the display of the Buddha's Finger relic at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. Her charm offensive continued as she elaborated on the message during a lunch with business leaders and dinner with religious figures. 'No matter at what level, from what parties, from what groups and of what kind of people, we have to widely achieve solidarity,' she said. 'Hong Kong is a diversified society and it is normal for different political demands and differences of interests to exist.' Without directly referring to the dispute over constitutional reform, she said Chinese culture valued peaceful co-existence and the concept of 'one country, two systems' was its strongest manifestation. 'The key is to improve communication, increase understanding and extend the consensus. It doesn't matter if a consensus could not be reached for some time, it could be put aside for a while to be gradually solved later,' she said. 'There are no problems that cannot be resolved if we have more dialogue and be more rational and accommodating.' Ms Liu's visit is seen as a move by the central government to pacify growing discontent in Hong Kong following the National People's Congress veto of universal suffrage. At a dinner with leaders of the six main religions in Hong Kong, Ms Liu encouraged more communication between religious groups here and on the mainland, but said communication should be carried out under 'mutual respect, mutual non-interference and non-affiliation'. Catholic Bishop Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, who has not met senior state officials since a stormy meeting 1998 in Shenzhen, described the atmosphere of the dinner as 'very good'. 'I have told them their trip here was to build friendship, so it would have been better if they could have seen everybody rather than excluding some people. I have not mentioned the word democrats but they of course understood,' he said. He told Wang Zuoan, deputy director-general of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, and Li Guikang, deputy director of the central government liaison office, about Hong Kong's political discontent. 'I have told them they need to communicate more and understand more about Hong Kong people, and they have to trust us and not treat us as enemies. Both of them agreed there should be more communication,' the bishop said. He said the meeting was a 'good start' but the fact pro-democracy figures were not invited had marred the success of the trip. Earlier, Ms Liu said it was her duty to make new friends to help frank discussions. 'I believe in mutual communication, exchanges, understanding, tolerance and acceptance, which are all very important not just to Hong Kong but to the whole country,' she said. Many of the friends Ms Liu met yesterday echoed her call. 'We should communicate rather than hurt each other. The democrats should not incite the public to play with fire and demonstrate on July 1,' Chinese Association of Manufacturers chairman Chan Wing-kee said. Tycoon Victor Li Tzar-kuoi said: 'She wanted to give us encouragement. Now that the relationship between the mainland and Hong Kong is getting better I think this is what the general public wants to see.'