Prague archbishop asks Xi Jinping for freedom of religion in China

Mgr Dominik Jaroslav Duka called on the Chinese president to grant freedom to Catholics and all believers in China. He also gave the Chinese leader a book by a Czech dissident, whose works were banned under the country’s former Communist regime. Some 30 business deals were signed worth US$ 4 billion.

Prague (AsiaNews) – During President Xi Jinping’s state visit to the Czech Republic, Mgr Dominik Jaroslav Duka, archbishop of Prague, presented the Chinese leader with a letter calling on his government to respect human rights and religious freedom.

During his visit, which ended yesterday, Xi signed a strategic partnership treaty with the Czech Republic. Some 30 business agreements were also signed that could bring about US$ 4 billion in investment this year in tourism, banking, energy and car making.

The visit has been controversial and sparked protests. Some activists threw black paint at some Chinese flags on display in Prague streets; other Chinese flags were covered with Tibetan flags.

Falun Gong practitioners and Vietnamese were also among the protesters, slamming China’s infringement on Vietnam’s territorial waters in the South China Sea.

Czech President Milos Zeman received Xi in Prague Castle with full honours. He was also criticised for sacrificing human rights for economic interests.

The Archbishop of Prague Dominik Jaroslav Duka (pictured) met the Chinese leader at the banquet in the latter’s honour two days ago.

The prelate presented Xi a letter and a book by Bohuslav Reynek, whose works were banned by Czechoslovakia’s Communist regime after 1948.

According to Mgr Duka’s secretary, the letter handed to Xi Jinping called on him to respect human rights and religion freedom, not only for Catholics, but also for all believers.

In it, the archbishop said he hoped Xi would understand that freedom for the Church and religious communities was an indispensable part of life in a democratic country. The prelate decided to attend the banquet with Xi to encourage religion freedom in China.

An exhibit of Reynek’s works was recently held in Beijing. Initially, China’s Ministry of Culture had refused the Czech request, but after much persuasion, it gave its approval. (JA)