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Archbishop of Prague asks Xi for religious freedom

prague (AsiaNews): On the occasion of the visit of the president of China, Xi Jinping, to the Czech Republic from March 28 to April 1, the archbishop of Prague, Archbishop Dominik Jaroslav Duka, handed him a letter calling for respect for human rights and religious freedom.

Archbishop Duka presented the letter to Xi, together with a book on Bohuslav Reynek (1892 to 1971), a Czech artist and Bohemian painter, poet, translator and writer, who was banned by the Communist regime from 1948 onwards.

The secretary to the bishop said that the letter contains a request for respect for human rights and religious freedom in China, not only for Catholics, but for all people.

Archbishop Duka said he hopes that Xi can understand that freedom for the Church and for the community is an important part of the life of a democratic nation.

He added that he had agreed to attend the banquet given for Xi as a sign he was making his request for religious freedom in China with respect for the person he was asking.

A recent request to hold an exhibition of Reynek’s works in Beijing was initially refused by the Chinese Ministry of Culture, but after some persuasion, approval was given.

Xi signed a strategic partnership treaty with Prague, as well as at least 30 economic agreements that could increase the trade volume between the two countries to US$4 billion ($31 billion).

They cover broad areas such as tourism, banking, energy and the automotive industry.

Xi’s visit also attracted protests and disputes. Some Chinese flags on display on the streets of Prague were stained with ink and some others covered with Tibetan flags.

There were also demonstrations by the Falun Gong, as well as from the Vietnamese community over China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.

The president of the Czech Republic, Milos Zeman, afforded his guest full honours, but was criticised in some quarters for remaining silent on human rights in the name of the economic benefits.

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