No Chinese Envoy at Funeral

The Chinese government said on Thursday it will not send an envoy to Pope John Paul II's (search) funeral due to its long-standing policy of refusing to recognize states that have diplomatic relations with rival Taiwan.

The Vatican (search) is the only European government that has official relations with the island of Taiwan (search) instead of Beijing.

The Chinese government said this week it would consider opening relations with the Holy See only if it breaks ties with Taiwan and avoids interference in Chinese affairs.

Free live streaming video of the pope's funeral at 4 a.m. EDT on

"Under the current circumstances, China will not send a delegation," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang.

Qin also complained about Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian's departure Thursday to attend the pope's funeral. The unprecedented trip was sensitive to arrange because — despite an invitation from the Vatican in Rome — Chen also needed a visa from Italy to pass through its territory. Qin expressed "strong dissatisfaction" to Italy for granting the visa.

The trip gives Chen a rare opportunity to join dozens of world leaders at an international event. A Taiwanese president has never made an official trip to Europe while in office — and Taiwanese officials were pleased.

"President Chen expresses gratitude for the Vatican's invitation and for the assistance from the Italian government," a statement from the Presidential Office said.

Qin, however, complained that Chen could use the trip to promote formal independence for Taiwan — a status that Beijing has said it would use military force to block. "His real intention is to take this opportunity to engage in secessionist activity and create `two Chinas or one China and one Taiwan,' which is what we are opposed to," Qin said.