THE LONG SHADOW OF THE CHINESE DICTATORSHIP OVER THE VATICAN AND ITALY
20 Luglio 2020
Dear friends and enemies of Stilum Curiae, as you know, every fifteen days Radio Roma Libera, the biggest producer of Catholic podcasts in Italy, hosts my reflection on a theme related to current events. The latest one addresses the relationship between Beijing, the Vatican, and Italy. Happy reading, and happy listening.
In the past few days there have been two at least questionable episodes related to human rights, with particular reference to communist China and to Hong Kong, where the regime of Beijing has imposed a new law to safeguard national security that has extended the dictatorial climate that has existed for decades on the mainland to Hong Kong.
The first episode concerns the reigning Pontiff. On Sunday, July 5, a Bulletin from the Press Office of the Holy See was distributed to journalists, which announced that Pope Bergoglio would say the following in his remarks after the Angelus:
“Recently, I have followed with particular attention and not without concern the development of the complex situation in Hong Kong, and I wish to show above all my heartfelt closeness to all the inhabitants of that territory. In the current context, the issues addressed are undoubtedly delicate and affect everyone’s life; therefore it is understandable that there is a marked sensitivity in this regard. I hope therefore that all the people involved will know how to face the various problems with a spirit of far-sighted wisdom and authentic dialogue. This requires courage, humility, non-violence, and respect for the dignity and rights of all. I thus express the desire that societal freedom, and especially religious freedom, be expressed in full and true liberty, as indeed various international documents provide for it. I accompany with my constant prayer the entire Catholic community and all people of good will in Hong Kong, so that together they can build a prosperous and harmonious society.”
Nothing revolutionary here. It was certainly a paragraph that was written and carefully worded by the competent staff of the Secretariat of State. But shortly after being given the Bulletin, the journalists were told that these words would not be spoken, without any other explanation. The extraordinary thing is that almost all of the Italian media ignored and continue to ignore this story, which – in our hypothesis – was caused by a preventative reaction from Beijing.
This censorship, both at the Vatican and in Italy, foreshadows little good for the future of those who would criticize China, including within China itself. According to Bitter Winter, a website that specializes in analysis of current affairs in China, article number 38 of the new security law for Hong Kong says: “This Law shall apply to offences under this Law committed against the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region from outside the Region by a person who is not a permanent resident of the Region.” It must be concluded, as Bitter Winter does, that China, and thus the Chinese Communist Party, claims jurisdiction over every human being on the planet who dares to criticize China, and perhaps on other planets as well. This article 38 may have the following effect. Let’s say I write or speak critically against China and its policies – for example, the illegal occupation of Tibet or the persecution of Christians or the Uyghurs. Now, if I set foot in Chinese territory or in Hong Kong, I can be arrested and prosecuted.
The United Kingdom has presented a motion at the United Nations against this new law. But only 27 nations have signed the motion. Italy was not one of them. And thus another piece of the mosaic falls into place…
Translated by Giuseppe Pellegrino
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