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A suppressed media response to China-Vatican overtures

Mainland sources are unaware of any recent reports about closed-door negotiations between Beijing and the Vatican

ucanews.com reporter, Hong Kong

ucanews.com reporter, Hong Kong

Updated: July 20, 2016 12:35 PM GMT
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A suppressed media response to China-Vatican overtures

A detailed Reuters article on Pope Francis' efforts to meet with Chinese President Xi Jingping to discuss the Catholic Church's situation in China has not been covered by mainland media. (Photo of Pope Francis by Republic of Korea/Photo of President Xi Jinping by kremlin.ru)

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Media in Hong Kong and mainland China seem to have suppressed an investigative report by Reuters revealing the extent of closed-door negotiations between Beijing and the Vatican. The talks were trying to reach a historic accord over the appointment of bishops.

Few secular media outlets in mainland China and Hong Kong picked up a Reuters' July 14 report regarding an accord between China and the Holy See that church analysts say the Vatican aims to achieve this year.

Previously China-Vatican relations drew the interest of the press. In March 2015, when rumors of progress in China-Vatican relations were rife, Phoenix TV, a Hong Kong-based pro-Beijing media outlet, sent a crew to Rome to investigate.

As of July 19, news searches showed that only three Hong Kong online or print media carried the Reuters' report that claimed the pope is pushing for a breakthrough. Two local pro-Beijing newspapers and another outlet known to be close to Beijing did not carry any stories or follow ups. In China, only one media agency reported the news briefly.

Active Catholic bloggers told ucanews.com that they were not aware of any coverage in China about the closed-door negotiations between Beijing and the Vatican. One of them believed the Party was "certainly unhappy" about the report.

The sought after deal revealed in the Reuters' report would be for Beijing to accept some 20 bishop candidates that the Vatican has appointed in recent years, including some appointed during Pope Francis' reign. In exchange, the Holy See will pardon all eight illicit appointments made without Papal approval in Beijing.

A former journalist in Hong Kong, who asked not to be named, said that China's interference with the media in the former British colony is nothing new.

"Our boss regularly [kowtows] to mainland scrutiny and he would sometimes dictate their demands to us," she said. "The publisher did not say explicitly that we have to follow their 'opinions' in our reporting and editing but everyone knew what he really meant," she added.

In China, Lu Kang, spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, reiterated that the two sides now have a smooth and effective channel for dialogue and China would like to continue their constructive conversation with the Vatican. "We also hope that the Vatican will adopt a flexible attitude and create favorable conditions for the further improvement of bilateral relations," Lu said on July 15.

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