The Chinese Communist Party has warned the state-controlled tourism industry not to send tour groups to the Vatican, amid growing diplomatic tensions between Beijing and the Holy See. Travel agencies have been sent a directive ordering them to delete or cancel the Vatican and St. Peter's Basilica from their list of destinations, Radio Free Asia reported an employee at Phoenix Holidays International Travel Agency in China as saying.
"Any travel agency found to be advertising these destinations in their promotional literature or other products will be fined up to 300,000 yuan [US$45,430]," the directive said.
The move is the first time Beijing has tried to stop its nationals from visiting the city state. Relations between Communist China and the Holy See Ties have been strained ever since a Catholic priest was jailed for complicity in an alleged plot to assassinate then supreme leader Mao Zedong in 1950.
The Holy See also maintains diplomatic relations with the nationalists who fled to Taiwan after losing a bitter civil war in 1949. Ties have also been strained over the appointment and ordination of bishops in China.
"We can't do it any more, because we don't have diplomatic links with the Vatican," the Phoenix Holidays employee said. "All of this has been decided by the State Tourism Bureau."
"These are policies that have been handed down to us by the government." An employee at the Chengdu branch of the same firm confirmed the directive.
"There won't be any [tours to the Vatican] from now on, because of the international situation," the employee said. "Travel agencies are no longer including them in itineraries." Employees at other travel agencies confirmed they had received similar orders. Chinese officials were unavailable for comment.
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