China imposes tourism ban on the Vatican

Vatican City. (Photo courtesy: armidatrentino)
Vatican City. (Photo courtesy: armidatrentino)

(, Nov23, 2017) – Sino-Vatican ties appear to have taken a nosedive, given previous reports that the two sides were about to reach a deal on appointment of Bishops in China and pursuant diplomatic recognition of each other at the expense of Taiwan, with the Holy See seen as giving almost all the concessions. Now, the Communist Party of China, the country’s sole ruling power, has warned its state-controlled tourism industry not to send any tour groups to the Vatican, reported the Cantonese Service of Radio Free Asia (Washington) Nov 21.

The report cited an employee at the Phoenix Holidays International Travel Agency as saying travel agencies had been sent a directive dated Nov 16 ordering them to delete or cancel the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica from their list of destinations.

“Any travel agency found to be advertising these destinations in their promotional literature or other products will be fined up to 300,000 yuan,” the directive was quoted as saying.

Employees at other travel agencies have also confirmed receiving the directive.

The report cited an official at the Guangdong provincial branch of the State Tourism Bureau as saying the directive had been issued at the highest level of government in Beijing. “This is a diplomatic issue, so only the ministry of foreign affairs or the State Tourism Bureau would have the authority to [to decide this],” he was quoted as saying. “We don’t necessarily know about their political attitude.”

“They have played a similar game with South Korea, Sweden and Japan in the past,” a highly placed source surnamed Ye at a Chinese travel agency was quoted as saying. “A lot of travel agencies and duty free stores went out of business altogether after the boycott of South Korea … but when their government complained to China, the Chinese government denied ordering the ban.”

A second industry source surnamed Chen was reported to have confirmed that many companies suffer losses as a result of complying with such boycott orders.

The report said relations between Beijing and the Vatican had come under repeated strain under the administration of President Xi Jinping, as China moved to ordain more and more of its own bishops without Vatican approval to meet the needs of a growing Catholic population. It added that the Vatican typically responds by excommunicating bishops who accept Beijing’s consecration ceremonies, saying that only the Pope could appoint bishops.

The report noted that China’s officially sanctioned Catholic Church had between five and six million members, while an underground church loyal to the Vatican had an estimated 10 million followers.

The Vatican is the only European state with which Taiwan—as the seat of the 1911 Republic of China founded by Sun Yat-sen—still has full diplomatic relations, the report noted.


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