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China-Vatican Deal a Blow to Taiwan’s Diplomacy

China and the Vatican recently made a historical breakthrough in their relations. They reached an interim agreement wherein the Holy See acknowledged the seven bishops that the Communist China appointed. Analysts said that this is a victory for Beijing and will inevitably have an impact on the relationship between the Vatican and Taiwan.

Previously, the Pope did not recognize the bishops that the Chinese government appointed. Although this interim agreement does not mention diplomatic relations, it is generally believed that this will improve the relationship between Beijing and the Holy See. Since 1951, the two countries diplomatic relations have been severed. In recent years, Taiwan has been maneuvering on an increasingly difficult diplomatic stage. The impact is obvious. At present, the Vatican is one of Taiwan’s 17 remaining countries with diplomatic ties. It is the only one in Europe.

Some believers worry that the new agreement will cause Taiwan to lose the Vatican as its most important diplomatic ally. Many experts also agree with this view.

Jonathan Sullivan, director of the China Policy Institute at the University of Nottingham, described the accord as “a strategic move on China’s part; and a naive one on the Vatican’s.”

YING Fuk Tsang, a theology professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said that Beijing will inevitably use all means to seek recognition from the Holy See. He said that if China succeeds, it will be a major blow to Taiwan’s diplomacy.

Cardinal Joseph Zen, the outspoken former bishop of Hong Kong, accused Vatican officials of “selling out” ahead of Saturday’s agreement. In a blog posted shortly after the announcement he raised concern over its impact.

The cardinal wrote, “What will the (Chinese) government say to Catholics in China? ‘Obey us. The Holy See is already in agreement with us?’”

Recently underground churches in China have been raided, bulldozers have torn them down, or they were asked to hang China’s national flag. Religious materials have been confiscated and the clergy has been pressured to reveal personal information about believers to the authorities.

An underground clergyman said that they were afraid because the Sino-Vatican provisional agreement did not mention any measures of protection that would be available for them and their followers. One priest said that believers “have doubts about the government’s sincerity.”

Source: Deutsche Welle Chinese, September 23, 2018