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Taiwanese president writes Pope Francis: ‘Dialogue’ with China ‘impossible’

The president of a vulnerable nation has reminded Pope Francis that it is difficult to 'dialogue' with a tyrant.
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President Tsai Ing-Wen of Taiwan. Carl Court / Getty Images
Dorothy Cummings McLean By Dorothy Cummings McLean

Dorothy Cummings McLean By Dorothy Cummings McLean

TAIPEI, Taiwan, January 23, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) ― The president of a vulnerable nation has reminded Pope Francis that it is difficult to “dialogue” with a tyrant.

Tsai Ing-wen, the recently re-elected president of the island nation of Taiwan, wrote an open letter to the pontiff on Tuesday in response to his 2020 World Day of Peace message. In his letter, Pope Francis declared, “We need to pursue a genuine fraternity based on our common origin from God and exercised in dialogue and mutual trust.” The president of Taiwan pointed out, however, that sometimes dialogue is “impossible.”

“Many of the international conflicts today can be attributed to the desire to dominate others,” Tsai wrote to the Argentinian pontiff.

“When one party tries to impose its will on another, genuine dialogue becomes impossible.”

Referring to the frosty relationship between Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China, which claims Taiwan as a rebellious province, President Tsai explained why dialogue with the communist dictatorship is difficult.

“We have always concurred with Your Holiness’s peace ideals and hope to peacefully resolve the differences across the Taiwan Strait,” she wrote. “However, formidable challenges stand in the way of cross-strait dialogue.”

“The crux of the issue is that China refuses to relinquish its desire to dominate Taiwan. It continues to undermine Taiwan's democracy, freedom, and human rights with threats of military force and the implementation of disinformation campaigns, cyberattacks, and diplomatic maneuvers.”

The president suggested, however, that Taiwan has managed to alert other democracies to its potential as “an optimal partner for maintaining peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific.”

The Vatican is one of the few states that recognizes Taiwan as a nation separate from China. Tsai assured its head that she would “spare no effort in safeguarding democracy, freedom, stability, justice, and peace in the Republic of China.”

Referring to key passages in Pope Francis’s letter, Taiwan’s president pointed out how China is violating its spirit.

“I agree with your statement in the World Day of Peace message that mistrust and fear weaken relationships,” Tsai wrote. 

“In recent months, China has repeatedly conducted military actions and drills in the Taiwan Strait and surrounding areas, causing anxiety in the region and further eroding international trust in China,” she observed. 

Nevertheless, Taiwan will not be baited.

“As a key stakeholder in the region, Taiwan will fulfill its international obligations and refrain from provocations and rash behavior, in order to maintain the status quo of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait,” Tsai promised.

The Taiwanese president also noted that Pope Francis had stated that “walking the path of peace requires us to set aside every act of violence in thought, word and deed[.]” She contrasted this with China’s recent violent actions.

“Authorities dispatching armed police to fire tear gas and suppress and arrest people expressing the wish to pursue democracy and human rights; internet celebrities or athletes being threatened with termination of contracts or bans from competitions when they speak up in defense of freedom of speech; religious practitioners facing detention and persecution by public security officers when they, following their conscience, refuse to be coerced into signing documents to join an organization that violates their religious doctrines — all these constitute what you refer to in your message as abuses of power and reflect the notion of diversity as an obstacle. Indeed, they only serve to fuel conflict,” she wrote.

“Indeed, they only serve to fuel conflict.”

Possibly referring to China’s crackdown on Catholics, other Christians, and other religious believers on the mainland, Tsai expressed her hope that the Catholic Church would increase. Referring to Pope Francis’s remarks about hope, the president said: “I firmly believe that as long as people in Taiwan and around the world embrace hope and remain open to a dialogue that rejects exclusion and manipulation, true peace can be achieved.”

She concluded: “Please accept, Your Holiness, the assurances of my highest consideration, as well as my best wishes for your personal wellbeing and the continued growth of the Catholic Church.”

A former Canadian ambassador to China told LifeSiteNews he thought Tsai had written a “very timely” letter to Pope Francis.

“My sense is that President Tsai has written a respectful, heartfelt and very timely letter to the Holy Father,” said David Mulroney by email. 

‘If there is a suggestion embedded in the text, it is a gentle but important one,” he continued. “Translated into Christian terminology, President Tsai is asking the Holy Father, very politely, to read the signs of the times, to see China as it is, not as we wish it to be.”

Mulroney believes that China continues to present an existential threat to Taiwan and is using its military might to intimidate its people.

“There is legitimate fear in Taiwan that closer relations between the Vatican and Beijing could further isolate the island diplomatically, something that would threaten both its autonomy and its democracy,” he stated, adding that this is not an unrealistic concern.

“The President’s message is a reminder that the Vatican-China dialogue resonates across a region that China aspires to dominate, and a plea that the Church speak and act courageously, using its voice to promote peace and true human freedom,” Mulroney said.


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