March 22, 2005


FROM: ELLEN BORK, Deputy Director

SUBJECT: Taiwan, the Vatican, and Hong Kong

I would like to draw your attention to an editorial in today's New York Sun, "A Beijing-Vatican Deal?" The Sun's editorial writers see an important lesson in Beijing's most recent plan to interfere in Hong Kong affairs for the Vatican should it consider breaking ties with Taiwan to recognize Beijing.

"A Beijing-Vatican Deal?
New York Sun Editorial Staff
New York Sun
April 7, 2005

Just as world leaders are gathering at the Vatican for the funeral of the pope who faced down Soviet communism comes word that a deal may be in the works between the Holy See and the Chinese communists. According to Bishop Joseph Zen of Hong Kong, the Vatican is on the verge of breaking ties with Taipei in order to establish them with Beijing, which outlaws the Catholic Church and maintains communist-controlled official churches.

No one at the Vatican has stepped forward to confirm or deny the Bishop's prediction. But it's hard to imagine such a deal with the Chinese communists being hatched at a time when John Paul II was at the height of his powers. Indeed, it's hard to see such a deal as anything but a repudiation of much of what he stood for. And it's hard to imagine what the Vatican could be thinking it might get out of any deal with the communist camarilla in Peking.

Just take a look at the most recent example of how Beijing views its promises to Hong Kong. The interim chief executive of Hong Kong, Sir Donald Tsang, said yesterday that he will refer an important matter of legal interpretation of Hong Kong's "constitution," the Basic Law, to Beijing for resolution. The issue is whether the successor to Tung Chee-hwa, who resigned in March, should serve out the last two years of Tung's term, or a new five-year term, as provided for in the Basic Law.

This is no arcane legal matter. Beijing's immediate objective may be to assure control over Sir Donald - a colonial civil servant under the British who has fallen in line under communist rule. With a two-year term, Beijing could dump him after two years, rather than have him serve the five the Basic Law calls for. But the implications go well beyond Sir Donald's political fate.

The citizens of Hong Kong, denied the right to choose their own leader, invest great importance in the rule of law - even a "law" drafted and imposed on them by Beijing. This would be the third time Beijing has decided to "interpret" the Basic Law to suit its purposes. It did so previously to deny mainlanders with a Hong Kong parent residency on the island, and, last year, to rule out democratic selection of the chief executive or the full legislature any time soon.

Despite pledges by the world's democracies to stand up for Hong Kong's democratic development and the rule of law, Beijing's interference went unchallenged. The autonomy Hong Kong was supposedly promised has already been exposed as a myth. At this point, the only good to come of yet more interference by Beijing is the shame it lays at the door of Communist China. And, perhaps, the hesitation it may cause to those, from Washington to the Vatican, who might be thinking that they too can rely on Beijing to respect its promises.