China prevents Pope from visiting Hong Kong

CHINA HAS barred Pope John Paul II from visiting Hong Kong during his Asian tour later this year because of the Vatican's diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

Hong Kong Bishop Joseph Zen said yesterday that China "says the Vatican has ties with Taiwan and no ties with us. Therefore, such a visit is not convenient."

Hong Kong's government, caught between its masters in Peking and the emotions of some 250,000 Chinese Catholics in the former British colony, said the visit would have to wait.

"It would only be appropriate to discuss the proposed visit after the Central People's Government (in Peking) and the Vatican have resolved the relevant issues," a government spokesman said. The Vatican's diplomatic relations with Taiwan, which Peking has viewed as a renegade province since winning a civil war in 1949, were clearly at the top of the list of relevant issues.

This was China's latest example of flexing its muscles on foreign and defence issues concerning Hong Kong, and further defining the limits to the territory's autonomy since British rule ended in July 1997. Tensions between Peking and Taiwan have risen sharply since July, with China warning Taiwan not to move towards independence.

The United States has sent envoys to both sides to try to calm the feud.

The Pope wanted his Asia tour to include Hong Kong, and the Vatican approached Peking via the Chinese embassy in Rome. It would have been the first visit by a Pope since a stopover by Pope Paul VI in 1970.

Hong Kong's pro-democracy politicians said Peking's refusal was a shift from Britain's pre-handover policies and set further limits to Hong Kong's autonomy under Chinese rule. "What the administration of [chief executive] C H Tung has tried to impress on people is that things have not changed very much [since the handover]," said Emily Lau, a legislator and the leader of the pro-democracy Frontier Party.

"Catholics and others would like to know why the Pope came in the past and what is different now and is it really true that we are not as free as under British rule."

China has also launched a crackdown over the past month on the Falun Gong meditation movement, with widespread detentions. It has issued an arrest warrant for the movement's leader in the US.

Peking may face another challenge involving the Pope after Macau invited the Pope to visit the Portuguese-run enclave before it reverts to China on 20 December. That would require permission only from Portugal. (Reuters)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office / Sales Manager

£22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established and expanding South...

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones