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Spotlight on China

3/17/2008 - 07:38 PST

(Page 2 of 2)

can be of assistance in promoting government-determined priorities.

This view was confirmed in data released by the group, China Aid Association. On Feb. 6 the organization, which is devoted to promoting the plight of persecuted believers, released its 2007 annual report.

According to the document persecution increased last year, with an increase in arrests compared to 2006. The report concentrated on the situation of the so-called house churches, small groups of mainly Protestant believers who gather in private dwellings and who do not follow government guidelines on religious practice.

The report observed that there was an increase in arrests of the leaders of these small groups. As well, a number of Christian missionaries from overseas were arrested and expelled from China. According to China Aid, 2007 saw the most extensive government effort against foreign Christian missionaries for many years.

Vatican relations

Relations between China and the Vatican also remain problematic, particularly over issues such as the appointment of bishops. It does seem, however, that efforts are under way to explore ways of improving the situation, even if it is difficult to obtain a clear idea of what is happening.

On Feb. 20 Reuters published an article reporting that according to an unnamed Vatican official a visit by Benedict XVI to China would be "unthinkable" given the lack of religious freedom.

At the same time, Reuters noted that the official also said that communications were improving on both sides. In fact, the next day Reuters published another article, saying that China had made a "rare public admission" that it had held talks with the Vatican.

"The Chinese side has had contact with the Vatican," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao during a news conference. No further details were given.

Press interest in the subject continued with a March 2 report by the South China Morning Post. The article said that a Vatican-China affairs commission would shortly be holding a meeting to discuss matters, including the theme of a possible re-establishment of diplomatic relations.

The newspaper commented that it would be the first major reassessment of Vatican policy following the publication last May of a letter by the Pope to bishops, priests and the faithful in China. As ZENIT reported March 10, the meeting was held from Monday to Wednesday of last week.

Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen, who was in Rome for the Vatican meeting, was interviewed by Italy's RAI state television during his stay. He said that the August Olympics offer China an opportunity to improve its human rights record, according to a March 12 report by the Associated Press.

While he did not go into details, in the interview, Cardinal Zen said he hoped the Holy See and China would soon enter a "new era" in their relations by means of some kind of a deal to improve conditions for Catholics in the Asian country. It remains to be seen if China will take the opportunity to open up a bit more, or if it will continue to repress human rights and religious freedom.

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China, Flynn, Human, Rights, Religion, Freedom

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