Beijing Suppresses Pope's China Letter
"Web Sites Told to Remove Full Text"
HONG KONG, JULY 2, 2007 ( Zenit.org ).- Here is a news report published today by the Union of Asian Catholic News on China's suppression of Benedict XVI's letter written to the Catholics in that country.
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Mainland Catholic Websites Told To Remove Full Text Of Papal Letter
HONG KONG (UCAN) -- Some Catholic websites in mainland China that uploaded Pope Benedict XVI's letter to Catholics in the mainland shortly after it was released were ordered hours later to remove it.
UCA News observed that a few hours after the Vatican issued the letter on June 30 at 6:00 p.m. Beijing time (12:00 noon in Rome), several mainland Catholic websites uploaded the simplified Chinese version of the letter.
However, most of those websites, which usually carry news on the Universal Church, the China Church and the pope, had removed the text by the next day.
A priest in charge of such a website registered with the government told UCA News on July 2 he felt helpless because he strongly believes that "China Church websites should publish the pope's letter."
The priest, who asked not to be named, said some government officials who came to his office on June 29 asked about the letter but did not explicitly say he could not carry it. The next evening, he uploaded the letter to his site, but he was told on July 1 morning he was not allowed to upload the text.
By July 2, UCA News found five such websites, mostly run by "underground" Catholics, still had the full text, 19,763 Chinese characters, including the footnotes.
"Actually, this is not the first time we were told not to put certain news reports and articles on the Internet, particularly concerning China-Vatican relations and what Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun of Hong Kong says," the priest pointed out. He added that since he had no choice, he removed the pope's letter, lest his website face forced closure or other possible troubles.
As Pope Benedict mentioned in the letter, there are "increased opportunities and facilities in communications" in the mainland (No. 18), so the priest said he thinks China's Catholics can get the papal letter through other channels.
The priest also said that forbidding Catholic websites in China from carrying the letter proves what the pope said about governmental interference in religious affairs and that the Church cannot enjoy full religious freedom.
Other popular Catholic websites in China were warned to remove or not upload the letter. Some of them informed their readers on June 29 that the long-awaited papal letter would be released the next evening, and they urged their readers to watch for it and related reports. But since then, such websites have carried Vatican news but not about the papal letter.
A Catholic layman told UCA News on July 2 that after browsing the Internet, very few Catholic websites in mainland seem to have the papal letter, so he concluded that government authorities have acted against the webmasters.
Even so, most mainland Catholic news websites did carry a June 30 news report from China's Foreign Ministry. In it, Qin Gang, a Foreign Ministry official, responded to a question about the papal letter.
"We have taken note of the letter released by the Pope. China has always stood for the improvement of China-Vatican relationship and made positive efforts for that. China is willing to continue candid and constructive dialogue with Vatican so as to resolve our differences," Qin said.
He also reiterated China's position that improving China-Vatican ties still has two conditions: the Vatican must sever its so-called diplomatic ties with Taiwan and recognize the People's Republic of China as the sole legitimate government representing all of China, and it shall never interfere in China's internal affairs, including in the name of religion. "We hope the Vatican side takes concrete actions and does not create new barriers," he added.