Reuters blog archive
Remember ping-pong diplomacy, the exchange of ping-pong players between the United States and communist China in the 1970s that was one of the first steps that led to a thaw in relations between the two countries? If the Vatican had a ping-pong team, perhaps China would have considered sending their squad to the walled city in Rome for a match.
But the Vatican does not have a ping-pong team, as far as we know. So, the next best thing appears to be music. This week, Vatican Radio made a surprise announcement on its daily 2 p.m. bulletin. The China Philharmonic Orchestra of Beijing and the Shanghai Opera House Chorus will perform Mozart's Requiem for Pope Benedict on May 7 in the Vatican's audience hall, adding a stop to its already scheduled European tour.
As one diplomat said, "this could not have happened without the Beijing government approving it." Given the fact that relations between the Vatican and Beijing have been scratchy to say the least, one can only wonder if this is the start of a mating game. It could lead to diplomatic relations and China's recognition of the pope as leader of all Catholics in the world, including Chinese Catholics, many of whom have been forced to join the state-backed Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.
Something seemed afoot in the last few months. In November, Monsignor Pietro Parolin, undersecretary for relations with states, was reported to have made a secret visit to China. The Vatican never denied the reports. In March, a Chinese delegation secretly had talks in the Vatican, sources confirmed.
from Changing China:
We’re here, where’s the torch?
We arrived. For a long time it looked like we wouldn’t, but on Monday morning, four days after leaving Beijing, 11 foreign journalists arrived at the media centre on the lower slopes of Mount Everest to report on the torch relay.
It brought to an end two of weeks of uncertainty that started when a briefing was cancelled and we heard nothing more until we were summoned to the Beijing Olympic media centre on the morning of our scheduled departure. The party of foreign media, at this stage 20-strong, was informed that bad weather had caused a delay to our journey and the departure ceremony for the climb team and torch had been cancelled.
from Photographers' Blog:
Well........I don't believe it!!! It's happened. If you've read my last blog, ‘The Road West of Kangding' you know that I called that particular road ‘the worst road in the world'. Well....guess what....there is much worse.
Travelling with Chris Buckley, Reuters Beijing-base correspondent, we flew to Chengdu in Sichuan Province in China's south-west to try and get into areas where we had heard that violent demonstrations regarding Tibet had occurred. The reports stated that buildings had been damaged, thousands of riot police and soliders had been deployed, hundreds of local Tibetans had been arrested and Buddhist temples were surrounded. So with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao telling the world that such troubles were over less than a week after these reports, and there were no independent witnesses to verify this, we wanted to find out.
from Photographers' Blog:
If someone had asked me just a few days ago what the worst road I could imagine in the world would be like, I would have told them probably a mountain road with lots and lots of rocks and pot-holes. Well, little did I imagine that these elements would combine with two mountain passes of around 4000 metres, vertical drops off the sides of around 500 metres, snow, ice and to top it all off, local police telling you that you cannot get to where you want to go.
The area is Sichuan Province in south-western China. The town is Kangding, located around 400 kilometres west of the capital Chengdu. The road leads west, towards Tibet. I am trying to cover the story about the violence that has spread into the province following the rioting in the Tibetan capital Lhasa on March 14. In order to find out what is going on, myself and text journalist John Ruwitch needed to get to another town called Litang, some 400 kilometres west of Kangding, where there were reports of trouble last week.
John Ruwitch and I in front of the local bus we got taken off by police.
So we got on a local bus at 6.30am, ready for an 8 hour trip. Well, before we even leave the terminal, we were asked to get off by two local policemen. ‘Where are you going?'. Well, since the bus had the name of the town written on the windscreen directly behind where John and I were standing, we pointed to it. ‘Why are you going?'. John explained very simply in his excellent Chinese ‘Because we hear it is very beautiful'. That seemed to be a good answer, and we were allowed to get back on.
The bus started off some three minutes after the scheduled departure time of 7a.m. due to our little chat with the local constabulary, and no more than one kilometre down the road, the bus was stopped again. Another two policeman got on the bus, and again we were asked to get off. ‘Where are u going?' was the question once more. Same answer. ‘Why are you going?' Same answer again. And to our surprise after a 20 minute delay this time, which the locals on the bus were not at all pleased about, we got back on the bus and once more started our journey.
The road started off just fine. Winding up the first mountain pass (this one was only 3800 metres-high) the snow from the previous night gave everything the look of being wrapped in a beautiful white blanket. And when the sun rose, the gorgeous morning light added a warm glow to an already pristine scene.
We got 100 kilometres from Kangding. All good.
150 kilometres, all good.
At 200 kilometres, a local official was at a toilet stop. He looked at the bus, but did not get onboard. On we went.
250 kilometres, we continued west.
from Our Take on Your Take:
It's all about the angle and emotion in this image by Sam Kang Li from a rally by Tibetan protesters in Nepal. Through the use of the angle you view the protesters from the police point of view. The raw emotion on their faces adds the human element to the photo.
As readers of this blog will have noticed, I posted a note yesterday about calls by Italian intellectuals for Pope Benedict to break his supposed silence over Tibet. On Wednesday he did so at his weekly general audience, making a carefully worded appeal (here in Italian) for an end to the suffering of the people there.
Given the delicate nature of relations between the Vatican and China, the appeal seemed to strike a balance between his concern for the people and Vatican diplomacy. He mentioned the violence without mentioning China.
Pope Benedict is just about the only world leader not to have said anything about the events in Tibet. This hasn't gone unnoticed in Italy, where some commentators have been urging him to speak out -- and others have been defending him for not doing so.
A story in the March 18 edition of Corriere della Sera quoted Antonio Socci, a Catholic writer and intellectual, as calling the Pope's silence "the latest error by the Secretariat of State headed by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone". In the same article, Giorgio Tonini, a member of the centre-left Democratic Party, said he was at first surprised that the Pope had not spoken out against the violence in Tibet during his Palm Sunday Mass. He said he later remembered reading a book by the the late Cardianl Agostino Casaroli, who was secretary of state for much of the reign of the late Pope John Paul. In the book, Casaroli spoke of the "martyrdom of patience" he had to go through when dealing with the communist countries of the former Soviet Bloc.
from UK News:
But actor Richard Gere, chairman of the International Campaign for Tibet, has told Reuters he believes it would be "unconscionable" to attend the Games if China fails to deal with peacefully with the latest unrest.
from Our Take on Your Take:
It's not every day you see military personnel on the streets of Tibet and it's certainly not every day that we receive picture of it. So, when a You Witness contributor (who prefers not to be named due to the sensitivity of the story) sent in three dramatic images of exactly that, they were quickly sent off to our chief photographer in China who contacted him directly to seek permission and arrange payment for using the images on the Reuters Pictures Wire service. In total, 12 images from this You Witness contributor have been sent to an international audience via the Reuters Pictures Wire.
View other You Witness images that have moved on the Reuters wire here.
View this week's You Witness selection here.