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
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Ashdown Group: Automated Tester / Test Analyst - .Net / SQL - Cheshire

£32000 per annum + pension, healthcare & 23 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A gro...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin