Seoul (AsiaNews) - The Beijing government has banned about 80 young people from taking part in the Asian Youth Day being held in Daejeon, despite the enthusiasm aroused by the permission given to the papal flight to fly over Chinese airspace.
According to AsiaNews sources, about 40 of those young people are seminarians from Beijing, who in July 2014 refused to attend the year end Mass celebrated by some illicit bishops. According to the spokesman of the organizing committee of the Pope's visit to Korea, Heo Young-yeop, China's decision arose from "problematic internal situations". Another source speaks of possible arrests.
In addition, the Communist government has decided to recall some Chinese priests residing in Korea before the arrival of Pope Francis on the Korean peninsula. Local sources confirmed this to AsiaNews: "The priests were phoned by officials from the Religious Affairs Bureau, which threatened them with 'problems' if they did not immediately return home".
Threats of "problems" on returning home are a common means of controlling priests and religious overseas Chinese. In addition to the withdrawal of passports, visas and the cancellation of any generic bureaucratic documents, the executive and especially the Religious Affairs Bureau have often threatened the families of Catholics abroad.
Although there are no official figures, the Chinese community in South Korea has hundreds of thousands of people. Of these, at least 50 thousand are Catholic (baptized or catechumens). This community, mostly based in Seoul and Incheon, are cared for mainly by priests of their own nationality. Similarly, there are many Korean priests who serve in China, especially the Korean community residing there.
To avoid embarrassing situations, Beijing has decided to recall these people and to impose conditions to prevent their contact with Francis.
Yesterday at the inaugural Mass of the Asian Youth Day in Daejeon Chinese flags were not visible, even though a delegation of young people from mainland China was expected to take part. However, again AsiaNews sources claim a group of about 100 young people managed to arrive on the Korean Peninsula: these are mostly young people from the capital and the province of Hebei.
There will be time enough to evaluate these signals that China is sending to the Vatican. What is clear for now is that that Beijing, which considers itself a modern state, could not refuse its permission for the papal flight to cross the skies of China, but on the ground the State wants to continue to monitor the Catholics. As well as all information: Xinhua has not published a single news story on the Pope in Korea, instead it has given wide coverage to a Korean actress who is participating in a charity dinner (VFP)