China could use its improving ties with the Vatican to silence Hong Kong’s outspoken Catholic church, Apple Daily reported Friday.
The two sides are expected to sign an agreement any time soon to broaden cooperation after years of estrangement.
The warming relations come amid political turmoil in Hong Kong over Beijing’s controversial electoral reform proposal for Hong Kong’s 2017 chief executive election.
The proposal has polarized Hong Kong, with more ordinary people now opposing it alongside pro-democracy groups, the report said.
Beijing could use its influence on Rome to whip Hong Kong’s Catholic Diocese into line, the report said, citing church sources.
In August, Hong Kong bishop-elect Father Michael Yeung canceled a press conference in which he was expected to announce an official statement regarding the election proposal.
A church representative said Yeung had been called to the Vatican.
Bishop John Tong later told an internal meeting that Yeung’s press conference was called off at the last minute at the request of the Vatican, the report said.
The Vatican was worried the statement by the Catholic diocese would anger Beijing at a sensitive time in the ongoing discussions over closer diplomatic ties, Tong was quoted as saying.
Legislator Chan Ka-lok said the Catholic church has been a great influence during discussions on universal suffrage.
Yeung’s no-show could hurt the church’s credibility and that of Hong Kong society as a whole, making it more likely that its interests would be sacrificed in the future for political reasons.
Meanwhile, the Independent Commission Against Corruption, Hong Kong’s anti-corruption watchdog, requested a visit to the office of the Vatican’s representative in Hong Kong in August as part of an investigation into alleged donations to retired Hong Kong archbishop Cardinal Joseph Zen, Apple Daily reported, citing reliable sources.
The request was denied.
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