t a press conference on Wednesday aboard his papal plane, Pope Francis pointedly avoided taking a position on the Hong Kong protests while stressing his willingness to visit Beijing.
The head of the Catholic church was answering journalists’ questions in Japan at the end of his week-long tour of Asia, which also included a stop in Thailand. One reporter asked about the telegram he sent off to Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam while flying from Bangkok to Tokyo, as well as about Francis’s views on the situation in the former British colony and when he would be traveling to Beijing.
Francis was quick to explain that the telegram was only a “mechanical” courtesy that should not be read into (telegrams were also sent to Beijing and Taipei) before going on describe the situation in Hong Kong as nothing all that unique:
When we think about it, it’s not just Hong Kong. Think about Chile, think about France, democratic France: a year of yellow jackets. Think of Nicaragua, think of other Latin American countries that have problems like this, and even some European countries. It’s something general. How does the Holy See handle this? It calls for dialogue, for peace.
But it’s not only Hong Kong, there are various problematic situations that I am unable to evaluate at the moment. I respect peace and I ask for peace for all these countries that have problems, Spain too. It is better to put things in perspective and to call for dialogue, for peace, so that problems can be resolved. And finally: I would like to go to Beijing, I love China.
Despite reports of a thawing in relations between the Holy See and Beijing, Francis has still yet to visit China. There was considerable speculation last year that a trip was forthcoming after China and the Vatican hammered out an agreement on how bishops will be named.
Vatican City is one of the few remaining nations that still recognize Taipei over Beijing. Despite being in the area, Francis notably didn’t visit pay a visit to Taiwan during his trip — no pope has ever visited Taiwan, not even the extremely well-traveled John Paul II.
Last year, Taiwan’s Vice-President Chen Chien-jen visited Francis in the Vatican and invited him to Taiwan. In response, Francis is reported to have smiled and said that he will pray for Taiwan.