Tags: Taiwan | Takes | China's | Place | Pope's | Funeral

Taiwan Takes China's Place at Pope's Funeral

Friday, 08 April 2005 12:00 AM

Beijing, which works to isolate Taiwan in the international community, responded to the news of Chen's visit - a first by a Taiwanese president to Europe - by announcing it would not send a representative to the funeral.

Even before it was announced that Italy would allow Chen to visit, however, China had not said whether it would attend the ceremony.

The communist government, which broke ties with the Vatican in 1951, refused requests to allow Pope John Paul II to visit.

A state-sanctioned "Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association" boasts some four million members and appoints its own bishops, while millions more Catholics loyal to the Vatican worship secretly and face persecution, according to human rights groups.

Chen landed in Rome on a Taiwanese charter flight, was met by Taiwanese diplomats and an Italian protocol official and escorted to a hotel where he will stay during the visit, Taipei's central news agency (CNA) reported.

Beijing considers Taiwan a rebel province that will in the future be reunified with the mainland.

The Vatican is one of just 25 countries that has diplomatic ties with Taiwan, and as a result are denied recognition by China.

A statement from the Italian government quoted a spokesman as saying of the decision: "We had no choice, and China cannot not be aware of it. The Vatican's invitation [to Chen], as the Lateran Agreement states, forced us to issue a visa to facilitate the transit of foreign delegations."

The 1929 Lateran Agreement between the Catholic Church and the Italian government established the independent Vatican City, a 108 acre sovereign state.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said earlier the true aim of Chen's visit was not to attend the funeral but "to engage in secessionist activities" and promote the idea that China and Taiwan were not one.

Qin said China had voiced "strong dissatisfaction" to Italy and the Vatican for granting Chen visas.

The brief visit will be the first to Europe by a Taiwanese president in office and the first to the Vatican since the nationalist Chinese government, then based on the mainland, established diplomatic ties with the Holy See in 1942.

Taiwanese media and political analysts are calling it a major diplomatic breakthrough, but Chen's vice-president, Annette Lu, urged the media not to over-interpret its significance.

The Vatican was one of Taiwan's diplomatic allies and it was natural for the president to offer his condolences on the pope's death, she said.

Copyright: CNSNews.com

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Beijing, which works to isolate Taiwan in the international community, responded to the news of Chen's visit - a first by a Taiwanese president to Europe - by announcing it would not send a representative to the funeral. Even before it was announced that Italy would allow...
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Friday, 08 April 2005 12:00 AM
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