‘I Love China’: Pope Francis Downplays Hong Kong Protests

A worshipers waves the flag of China as Pope Francis leaves following the weekly general audience on June 12, 2019 at St. Peter's square in the Vatican. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP) (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty

Pope Francis dodged questions regarding his opinion of the Hong Kong protesters Tuesday, saying that such problems are occurring all over the world and that he loves China.

Asked aboard the papal plane about his telegrams to different Asian heads of state and his opinion on the Hong Kong pro-democracy demonstrations, the pope said that telegrams are just a formality and nothing should be read into them.

“Telegrams are sent to all heads of state, it is an automatic thing, they are a greeting and also a courteous way of asking permission to fly over their territory,” he said. “This has no significance of condemnation or support, it is a mechanical thing that all aircraft do when technically entering. They alert, ‘We’re coming in’ and we do it politely, we say hello. This has no value in the sense that you ask, just a courtesy value.”

Much has been made of the pope’s silence over the tense situation in Hong Kong, with many observers suggesting he does not want to roil the waters with Communist China in his bid to reestablish diplomatic relations with the country. In fall 2018 Francis signed an important document with Beijing regarding the naming of bishops in China, the contents of which have never been revealed.

In his in-flight press conference, the pope refused to take a stand regarding Hong Kong and instead said the problem must be “relativized” among other difficult situations occurring around the globe.

“But it’s not just Hong Kong. Think of Chile, think of France — the democratic France with a year of yellow vests — think of Nicaragua, think of the other Latin American countries, Brazil, which is struggling, and also any European country. It’s a generalized thing,” he said.

“What does the Holy See do with this? Call for dialogue, for peace. But it’s not just Hong Kong,” he said. “There are several issues that have problems and I am not able to evaluate them right now. I respect peace and ask for peace for all these troubled countries. There are also problems in Spain, problems like that. It is important to relativize things and to call for dialogue and peace to solve problems.”

“I would like to go to Beijing. I love China,” Francis concluded.

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