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Taiwan supports Vatican attempts to improve religious freedom in China – Focus Taiwan appeared on by Focus Taiwan – CNA English News.

Taipei, Sept. 5 (CNA) Taiwan’s government on Tuesday said it supports the Vatican’s ongoing efforts to engage in dialogue with China in an attempt to improve the country’s “deteriorating religious freedom and human rights” but also warned that Pope Francis’ recent trip to Mongolia suggests there is a long way to go before improvement is seen.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) spokesman Jeff Liu (???) made the remarks when asked by reporters to comment on the pope’s four-day visit to Mongolia that concluded on Monday.

During his first-ever visit to the Asian country that borders China, the pope sent a telegram of greeting to President Xi Jinping (???) as his aircraft flew through Chinese airspace early Friday, as per Vatican tradition.

At the end of a Mass on Sunday in Mongolia, the pope again sent greetings to China, calling its citizens a “noble” people and asking Catholics in China to be “good Christians and good citizens.”

On Monday, China’s foreign ministry said it has been taking a positive attitude toward improving relations with the Vatican.

Asked to comment on the exchanges between the Vatican and Beijing, Liu said Tuesday that as a country that upholds freedom of religion and protects human rights, Taiwan has always supported the Holy See in its attempts to talk to China to resolve their disputes over religious issues.

“We support the Vatican’s efforts to improve China’s deteriorating religious freedom and human rights issues with increased exchanges, and the ultimate goal of fulfilling religious freedom in China,” Liu told reporters during a news briefing.

However, Liu said foreign media reports have pointed out that China did not permit any bishops from the country to attend the papal visit in Mongolia.

Also, media reports said most of the Chinese Catholics present during the pope’s trip to Mongolia wore face masks, with some also wearing sunglasses and scarves, apparently to stop them from being identified by the Chinese government, Liu said.

“This all shows that the Chinese government’s United Front Work Department [that manages religious affairs] is standing between the Chinese people and the pope, and that the country as a whole is standing between the people and religion,” Liu said, adding that there appear to be many obstacles stopping China enjoying religious freedom.

Taiwan will continue to work closely with the Holy See in promoting humanitarian assistance around the world and safeguarding religious freedom, while at the same time deepening a decades-long friendship between the two sides based on shared values, Liu added.

The Vatican is one of 13 sovereign entities that maintains full diplomatic ties with Taiwan, officially named the Republic of China, but its relations with Beijing have warmed under the leadership of Pope Francis.

In 2018, Beijing and the Vatican struck a deal to work together on appointing Chinese bishops, which was extended for a second time last year. However, tensions have risen after Beijing violated the agreement by making appointments unilaterally.

(By Joseph Yeh)


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