The Catholic Church has warned that the government's plan for random voluntary drug testing in schools risks stigmatising the teenagers who are chosen. Vicar general Father Michael Yeung Ming-cheung also said that Catholic schools could decide for themselves whether to participate in the programme, although the church would meet this week to discuss the situation. 'If a student in a school is found to be on drugs, does it mean that the other 1,000 students have to be tested? It is impossible as it will take lots of time. But then when you take 10 to 20 students for the test, why are these students picked? It will stigmatise these students,' he said. Father Yeung was speaking a day after Bishop John Tong Hon, head of the Hong Kong diocese, publicly stated for the first time the church's opposition to the policy. Students with drug problems would find ways around getting caught, such as waiting for the holidays to take them, Bishop Tong said. Undersecretary for Education Kenneth Chen Wei-on moved to play down the rift with the church, saying the government welcomed all opinions. 'If the Catholic Church and other groups have other thoughts, we would like to listen to them. We hope they can offer advice on other efficient ways to help tackle drug abuse among the young,' Mr Chen said. The government would introduce the pilot programme at schools in Tai Po next month, but had not yet decided when to make it city-wide, the Education Bureau said. Father Yeung said neither Bishop Tong nor the church had issued instructions to its schools about taking part in the programme. He said schools could decide for themselves whether they would join the testing scheme. However, the church would meet later this week to discuss the matter, he said. The Catholic Church and its congregations are among the biggest school-sponsoring bodies, running 275 aided primary and secondary schools out of a total of 1,128. Father Yeung said the church supported the government's anti-drug efforts, and the problem required a comprehensive approach but resources were not being properly used. Hong Kong did not have enough drug treatment centres or social workers to deal with the situation, he said. The Education Bureau would meet various school-sponsoring bodies in the coming weeks to discuss the scheme, Mr Chen said. Police director of crime and security John Lee Ka-chiu stressed the tests were voluntary. 'We respect the decision of individuals if they decided not to participate,' he said.