President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has written to Pope Francis to complain about Chinese pressure on the nation, saying that Beijing aims to threaten its democracy and freedom.
The Vatican is one of just 15 countries that has diplomatic ties with Taiwan and the only one in Europe, but Taiwan has been concerned by the Vatican’s moves to normalize ties with China, especially after a landmark 2018 pact on appointing bishops was signed.
China has heaped pressure on Tsai, who won re-election by a landslide on Jan. 11 on a platform of standing up to Beijing.
Taiwan hopes for a peaceful resolution of its differences with China, Tsai wrote in her letter, released by the Presidential Office yesterday, in response to a message from Pope Francis for World Day of Peace on Jan. 1.
“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, cyber attacks, and diplomatic means,” she wrote.
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.
China’s recent military operations and exercises in the Taiwan Strait and surrounding areas have caused regional unrest and increased international distrust of it, Tsai said.
Beijing cut diplomatic ties with the Vatican in 1951 and remains concerned that an independent church in China could threaten its authority.
The 2018 deal, in the making for more than 10 years, gives the Vatican a long-sought say in the choice of bishops in China, previously solely appointed by the Chinese government.
Critics, particularly conservative Catholics, have labeled it a sellout.
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