Taiwan News: Pope Says He'll Pray for Taiwan During VP's Vatican Visit

Taiwan News: Pope Says He'll Pray for Taiwan During VP's Vatican Visit
Credit: Taiwan Presidential Office
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Pope Francis said he will pray for Taiwan and has sent his regards to Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) , Vice President Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) said yesterday while on a four-day visit to the Holy See.

Chen, who is leading a Taiwanese delegation attending the canonization ceremony for pope Paul VI and six other figures, said he invited the pope to visit Taiwan while on a scheduled trip to Japan next year. He did not say whether the pope accepted his invitation.

The Vatican is one of Taiwan's 17 diplomatic allies. Speculation has been rife in recent weeks that the Holy See would switch its recognition to Beijing after reaching a historic deal over bishop appointments in China, but this has not yet come to pass.

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Credit: Taiwan Presidential Office
Taiwan's embassy to the Vatican City.

Speaking from the Vatican, Chen expressed confidence that the agreement between the Vatican and Beijing related to religious matters only and would not affect the 76-year-old relationship between Taiwan and the Holy See.

Chen also met with Honduran Vice President Olga Alvarado, who was in attendance at the event. Honduras is another of Taiwan's 17 remaining allies.

Also at the Vatican, Chiayi Bishop Chung An-chu (鍾安住) exchanged greetings and handshakes with two Chinese bishops when they met during the Synod of Bishops. Chung said this was the first time bishops from Taiwan and China both attended a synod.

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Kaohsiung celebrated the opening of the National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts last weekend, along with an underground rail line inaugurated after nearly 10 years of construction.

The arts venue, located in Weiwuying Metropolitan Park, is the world's largest single-roof performing arts center and is likely to be Asia's largest arts venue. It also features a rare double pipe organ consisting of 9,085 pipes.

President Tsai gave a speech at Saturday's opening ceremony, which featured a musical performance from three generations of Taiwanese composers as well as virtuoso performances from Latvian organist Iveta Apkalna and sheng player Chen Yi-Wei (陳奕維).

The venue's architect, Francine Houben of the Netherlands, gave a speech saying her design was influenced by nearby banyan trees and expressing her certitude that the park would become an Instagram hotspot.

On Sunday, Kaohsiung continued its weekend of grand openings when it inaugurated its underground railway line, which will eliminate all ground-level railway tracks in downtown Kaohsiung.

The opening ceremony was attended by former Kaohsiung mayor and current Presidential Office Secretary General Chen Chu (陳菊) and Premier William Lai (賴清德), who thanked Kaohsiung residents for their patience as they put up with construction for the past decade.

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Former American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) chairman Richard Bush said Taiwan should remain wary of possible repercussions from the deteriorating U.S.-China relationship in an article published Friday on the Brookings Institution's website.

Bush expressed concern that Taiwan may become a "victim of 'friendly fire' in a U.S.-China trade war," as Taiwan retains close economic ties with China.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence made waves on Oct. 4 with a speech in which he blasted Beijing for threatening regional stability by provoking Taiwan.

Last week, dozens of regional officials and academics met at a Taipei think tank to discuss responses to Chinese cyber threats and "sharp power."

And on Friday, reports indicated that U.S. President Donald Trump would meet with China President Xi Jinping at November's G20 summit, although U.S. officials have not confirmed this meeting will take place as planned.

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Across the Strait, a Chinese live-streaming star has received five days' detention for a "disrespectful" rendition of the national anthem.

Yang Kaili, an online celebrity who rose to fame on live-streaming platforms Huya and TikTok, was cited for an "insult to dignity" for singing "March of the Volunteers" while "waving her arms in the air like a conductor," according to the South China Morning Post.

Police in Shanghai's Jinan district confirmed her detention, saying her performance "repelled internet users."

A Chinese law introduced last year allows anyone who plays or sings "March of the Volunteers" in "a distorted or disrespectful way in public" to be detained for up to 15 days, or jailed for up to three years.

A similar law is slated to be implemented in Hong Kong and Macau, which has caused intense controversy, especially among soccer fans in Hong Kong worried they may accidentally violate the law, according to the SCMP.

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Pasuya Yao (姚文智), the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate for mayor of Taipei, insists that his support ratings are at least 15 percent higher than indicated in recent polls.

Yao said DPP supporters may be less likely to voice their positions as the party is in power and holds a legislative majority. He added that support for fellow DPP candidates, such as New Taipei City mayoral candidate Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) and Kaohsiung mayoral candidate Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁), is also being underestimated by at least 15 percent.

Yao remains a heavy underdog to Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), an independent.

In response to Yao, Ko said DPP numbers would likely rise after recovering from the aftermath of August flooding in south Taiwan, after which the DPP was criticized for a sluggish response.

Yao also vowed to ban the Chinese national flag in Taipei should he become the city's next mayor.

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Trade and tourism is up between Taiwan and nations targeted by President Tsai's signature New Southbound Policy, according to Executive Yuan Office of Trade Negotiations data.

Trade between Taiwan and the 18 countries targeted by the policy, also referred to as the "Go South" plan, is up 5.5 percent from January to August compared to 2017, to US$77.07 billion (NT$2.38 trillion).

Taiwan's exports to those countries rose 3.2 percent to US$45.33 billion during that same period. Imports are up 9,1 percent to US$31.74 billion.

Inbound tourism from the 18 countries is up 16.9 percent from last year, while Taiwanese tourism to the targeted countries rose by 13.8 percent in the first eight months of 2018.

Last week's Yushan Forum, attended by President Tsai, featured academics and policy leaders who spoke of new ways Taiwan can collaborate with its southern neighbors.

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Taiwan's top trade negotiator, Minister without Portfolio John Deng (鄧振中), said Taiwan will benefit from its decision to be designated as a developed economy in the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Taiwan agreed to change its WTO status from "developing" to "developed," which he said will help Taiwan liberalize its international trade and better connect with the global market.

Taiwan joined the WTO as a "developing" economy in 2002, under the name "Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu (Chinese Taipei)." WTO members can self-select their own designation, choosing between "developing" or "developed" states.

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Travel between Taiwan's Kinmen County and China from January to September 2018 has grown by 10.87 percent compared to the first nine months of 2017, according to the National Immigration Agency (NIA).

A total of 1,385,617 passengers traveled between China's Fujian Province and Kinmen during the first nine months of 2018, compared to 1,249,764 in the same period of 2017.

During that period, 280,898 Chinese visitors arrived in Kinmen, an increase of 17.66 percent from the same period of 2017.

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Credit: Reuters / TPG
Shiyu, or Lion Islet, one of Taiwan's offshore islands and part of Kinmen County, is seen in front of China's Xiamen from Taiwan's Lieyu Island.

The increased figures, said Interior Minister Hsu Kuo-yung (徐國勇), are a good sign for the future development of cross-Strait relations between Taiwan and China, although he acknowledged the existence of tensions.

Direct trade, postal, and transport links were launched between Kinmen and Fujian Province in 2002. However, proposals by Kinmen County officials to expand resource links between the island and China have been met with resistance by Taiwan's central government.

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Editor: Nick Aspinwall (@Nick1Aspinwall)

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