UCA News

Taiwan

Taiwan president tells pope of China's religious persecution

Re-elected Tsai Ing-wen sends a letter accusing Beijing of suppression and abuses of power

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporter

Updated: January 23, 2020 03:13 AM GMT
Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Taiwan president tells pope of China's religious persecution

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen waves to supporters in Taipei after her election victory on Jan. 11. (Photo: Sam Yeh/AFP)

Share this article :
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen has written to Pope Francis to complain about China’s persecution of religion, saying that Beijing aims to threaten its democracy and freedom.

Taiwan has been concerned by the Vatican’s moves to normalize ties with China, especially after a landmark September 2018 provisional deal on appointing bishops.

Tsai won re-election by a landslide on Jan. 11 after a campaign pledge to protect Taiwan’s sovereignty from Chinese control.

In her letter to the pope, released by the Presidential Office on Jan. 21, she listed Chinese actions that she said constitute abuses of power, including violence toward Hong Kong protesters and persecution of religious believers seeking to follow their faith.

Responding to a message from Pope Francis for World Day of Peace on Jan. 1, Tsai wrote that Taiwan hopes for a peaceful resolution of its differences with China.

“However, at present dialogue across the Taiwan Strait is filled with difficulties,” she wrote. “The main sticking point is that China has so far been unwilling to let go of its desire to control Taiwan. It continues to threaten Taiwan’s democratic freedoms and human rights by threatening to use force against Taiwan, fake news, cyberattacks and diplomatic means.”

Tsai quoted directly from the pope’s peace message, which said: “War is fueled by a perversion of relationships, by hegemonic ambitions, by abuses of power, by fear of others and by seeing diversity as an obstacle.”

“Authorities dispatching armed police to fire tear gas and suppress and arrest people expressing the wish to pursue democracy and human rights; internet celebrities or athletes being threatened with termination of contracts or bans from competitions when they speak up in defense of freedom of speech; religious practitioners facing detention and persecution by public security officers when they, following their conscience, refuse to be coerced into signing documents to join an organization that violates their religious doctrines — all these constitute what you refer to in your message as abuses of power and reflect the notion of diversity as an obstacle. Indeed, they only serve to fuel conflict,” she wrote.

“I strongly identify with Your Holiness's magnanimous vision and appeal to all of humanity to renounce the desire to dominate others, show mutual respect, and learn to see one another as sons and daughters of God and as brothers and sisters, so as to break the spiral of vengeance.

“Many of the international conflicts today can be attributed to the desire to dominate others. When one party tries to impose its will on another, genuine dialogue becomes impossible.”

China’s recent military operations and exercises in the Taiwan Strait have caused regional unrest and increased international distrust, Tsai said.

Yet despite China’s “severe suppression,” Taiwan is moving forward, cooperating with friendly and similar-minded countries so that other democracies recognize it as the best partner for maintaining peace and stability, she said.

Beijing ended diplomatic ties with the Vatican in 1951 and is concerned that an independent church in China could threaten its authority.

The 2018 deal gives the Vatican a long-sought say in the choice of Chinese bishops, previously solely appointed by Beijing. Conservative Catholics have opposed the deal.

Tsai expressed her hope for the continued growth of the Catholic Church and said that the virtue of hope leads toward peace and overcoming adversity.

“I firmly believe that as long as people in Taiwan and around the world embrace hope and remain open to a dialogue that rejects exclusion and manipulation, true peace can be achieved,” Tsai wrote.

The Vatican is one of only 15 states that has diplomatic ties with Taiwan and the only one in Europe.

Beijing has consistently demanded that other nations end diplomatic recognition of Taiwan, which it regards as a rebel province, as a price for increased economic or political cooperation.

Taiwan’s government has repeatedly invited Pope Francis to visit Taiwan both before and after the deal on appointing bishops with China.

Support UCA News...

As 2020 unfolds, we are asking readers like you to help us keep Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) free so it can be accessed from anywhere in the world at no cost.

That has been our policy for years and was made possible by donations from European Catholic funding agencies. However, like the Church in Europe, these agencies are in decline and the immediate and urgent claims on their funds for humanitarian emergencies in Africa and parts of Asia mean there is much less to distribute than there was even a decade ago.

Forty years ago, when UCA News was founded, Asia was a very different place - many poor and underdeveloped countries with large populations to feed, political instability and economies too often poised on the edge of collapse. Today, Asia is the economic engine room of the world and funding agencies quite rightly look to UCA News to do more to fund itself.

UCA News has a unique product developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes. Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to - South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.

And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters that cover 22 countries and experienced native English-speaking editors to render stories that are informative, informed and perceptive.

We report from the ground where other news services simply can't or won't go. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don't have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.

With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.

Click here to find out the ways you can support UCA News. You can make a difference for as little as US$5...
UCAN Donate
YOUR DAILY
NEWSLETTER
Thank you. You are now signed up to our Daily Full Bulletin newsletter
 
Support UCA News

William J. Grimm, MM

Publisher

Union of Catholic Asian News

"As Pope Francis has said, we live not so much in an era of change as in a change of era. That is especially true in Asia and for the churches of Asia. UCA News is the dedicated, Asia-wide news and information service for the Church in Asia and we need your help to maintain the service."