US embassy cable - 06HONGKONG1362

CARDINAL ZEN OPTIMISTIC ON SINO-VATICAN RELATIONS; CONTINUES TO SPEAK OUT ON DEMOCRACY

Identifier: 06HONGKONG1362
Wikileaks: View 06HONGKONG1362 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Consulate Hong Kong
Created: 2006-03-31 10:27:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PGOV PHUM PINR PREL HK CH
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
VZCZCXRO8498
PP RUEHCN
DE RUEHHK #1362/01 0901027
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 311027Z MAR 06
FM AMCONSUL HONG KONG
TO RUEHROV/AMEMBASSY VATICAN PRIORITY
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5860
INFO RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HONG KONG 001362 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EAP AND EAP/CM 
NSC FOR DENNIS WILDER 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/23/2031 
TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, PINR, PREL, HK, CH 
SUBJECT: CARDINAL ZEN OPTIMISTIC ON SINO-VATICAN RELATIONS; 
CONTINUES TO SPEAK OUT ON DEMOCRACY 
 
 
HONG KONG 00001362  001.2 OF 002 
 
 
Classified By: E/P Chief Simon Schuchat. Reasons: 1.4(b,d). 
 
1. (C) Summary: On March 30, newly appointed Cardinal Joseph 
Zen Ze-kiun said he was optimistic about the restoration of 
ties between the Holy See and Beijing.  According to Zen, the 
Pope had made clear that he wanted to visit the mainland. 
During a special Vatican ceremony for the new cardinals on 
March 27, Zen introduced former Chairman of the Democratic 
Party Martin Lee and Next Media founder Jimmy Lai to the 
Pope.  The inclusion of Lee, a prominent symbol of Hong 
Kong's democracy movement, and Lai, a prominent proponent of 
press freedom, in Zen's delegation to the Vatican has stirred 
up debate over the role of Cardinal Zen in Hong Kong politics 
and as an advisor to the Pope on Sino-Vatican relations.  A 
March 29 "Ming Pao" editorial expressed concern that Zen's 
actions may have harmed the city's democracy movement and the 
Sino-Vatican relationship by linking the two issues.  One 
Catholic contact told us that the democrat and the publisher 
traveled to the Vatican out of personal friendship with Zen, 
rather than any political motivations.  End Summary. 
 
Zen Optimistic on Sino-Vatican Relations 
---------------------------------------- 
 
2. (SBU) On March 30, one day after returning from the 
Vatican, newly appointed Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun held a 
press conference and said he was optimistic about the 
restoration of ties between the Holy See and Beijing. 
According to Zen, the Pope had made clear that he wanted to 
visit the mainland and held out the possibility of a trip 
before official relations were established.  However, Zen 
said that the Vatican had made clear to the central 
government that it would have to "guarantee real religious 
freedoms" before the Vatican would consider normalizing 
relations.  The Vatican Foreign Minister Giovanni Lajolo told 
the "South China Morning Post" on March 25 that the "time is 
ripe" for the two sides to establish diplomatic relations. 
In response to these overtures, PRC Foreign Ministry 
Spokesperson Qin Gang said on March 30, "We hope the Vatican 
side can take real actions to create a good atmosphere and 
favorable conditions for the bettering of ties."  Qin also 
raised China's requirements that the Vatican break official 
ties with Taiwan and not interfere in China's internal 
affairs. 
 
A Cardinal, a Democrat and a Publisher 
-------------------------------------- 
 
3. (C) As predicted, Pope Benedict asked Zen to remain in 
Hong Kong and head the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese.  While 
Cardinal Zen will certainly play a role in Sino-Vatican 
relations, there had been local speculation that Cardinal Zen 
might play a more diplomatic, low profile role in the 
democracy movement.  However, this speculation quickly turned 
out to be wishful thinking on the part of pro-Beijing groups. 
 On March 27, Zen and the 14 other new cardinals had an 
opportunity to introduce their family and friends to the Pope 
at a special Vatican audience.  The Hong Kong delegation 
included former Chairman of the Democratic Party Martin Lee 
and Next Media founder and "Apple Daily" Publisher Jimmy Lai. 
 (Note: The Cardinal is close to Lee and Lai, who are both 
devout Catholics.  Moreover, our contacts have told us that 
Zen baptized Lai, who is a Catholic convert, and that Lee is 
Lai's godfather.  End Note.)  After the ceremony, Lee told 
the media that Zen introduced him to the Pope as a 
"legislator fighting for democracy in Hong Kong" to which the 
Pope said, "Do continue."  Lee urged the Pope to pray for 
religious freedom in China.  Lai reportedly told the Pope, 
"Please come to China and bring us love and democracy."  In 
response to Lai's invitation, the Pope said, "I will come." 
 
4. (C) The inclusion of Lee, a prominent symbol of Hong 
Kong's democracy movement, and Lai, a prominent proponent of 
press freedom, in Zen's delegation to the Vatican has stirred 
up debate over the role of Cardinal Zen in Hong Kong politics 
and as an advisor to the Pope on Sino-Vatican relations.  A 
March 29 "Ming Pao" editorial expressed concern that Zen's 
actions may have harmed the city's democracy movement and the 
prospects for Sino-Vatican normalization by linking the two 
issues.  The paper stated that while Zen's invitation to his 
two friends may have helped mobilize Catholics in the fight 
for universal suffrage in Hong Kong, but "the price for that 
may be Beijing's deepened misgivings."  Citing Poland and the 
Philippines, the author states, "religious leaders' 
involvement contributed to changes of government.  However, 
such a situation in Hong Kong would be extremely 
dangerous...We call on the Cardinal to put aside Hong Kong 
 
HONG KONG 00001362  002.2 OF 002 
 
 
affairs soon so that he can assist the Pope in a detached 
capacity and help bring about formal ties between China and 
the Vatican.  He should not wear two hats at the same time. 
He must try not to mix matters concerning human rights, 
justice and democracy in Hong Kong into Sino-Vatican 
diplomatic negotiations." 
 
5. (SBU) Media coverage of the Zen's elevation was split 
along expected political lines.  "Apple Daily's" coverage of 
Zen's elevation has been positive and glowing, while the 
pro-Beijing "Wen Wei Po" had no original reporting of Zen's 
trip to Rome.  Instead, "Wen Wei Po" printed a summary of the 
"Ming Pao" editorial.  Charles Ho, the Chairman of Sing Tao 
Newspaper Corporation, joked about Lai's invitation to the 
Pope to visit China during a March 29 award ceremony saying, 
"I recently heard that a certain newspaper owner invited the 
Pope to China...Who does this guy think he is, to invite 
someone home, without asking the owners of the house?"  The 
"Oriental Daily" and "The Sun," however, did not report on 
Cardinal Zen's trip to Rome.  (Note: Both newspapers are the 
only non-PRC supported papers with websites freely accessible 
in China.  End Note.) 
 
6. (C) Father Peter Barry, a researcher at the Holy Spirit 
Study Center (HSSC) told poloff on March 30 that analysts 
should not read motives into Lee and Lai's trip to Rome. 
Most likely, the democrat and the publisher traveled to Rome 
out of friendship with Zen.  Besides, said Barry, Zen merely 
provided the Holy Father with context when introducing the 
two men, mentioning that both Lee and Lai were involved in 
Hong Kong's democracy movement.  Chinese University of Hong 
Kong professor Joseph Cheng told us on March 30 that 
pro-Beijing groups initially did not know how to react to 
Zen's elevation.  However, after Liu Bainian, Vice Chairman 
of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association called Zen's 
appointment as Cardinal a "hostile act" against China on 
March 8, Hong Kong's traditional leftists began to openly 
criticize Zen.  Cheng said it was significant that the "Ming 
Pao" had taken such a high profile approach in criticizing 
Zen. 
 
Don't Sacrifice Taiwan, Urges Pro-Taiwan Trade Union 
--------------------------------------------- ------- 
 
7. (SBU) Separately, on March 31, the Hong Kong and Kowloon 
Trade Union Council, a pro-Taiwan trade union, presented a 
petition to the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese, urging the 
Vatican to maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan and not 
to sacrifice an ally.  The Catholic Diocese scheduled a 
meeting for the trade union to meet with Cardinal Zen. 
Cunningham 

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