China congratulates new pope, but indicates no change in demands for forging diplomatic ties

China has congratulated former Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio on his election as pope, but says its long-standing conditions for establishing formal ties with the Vatican remain unchanged.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Thursday that Beijing hopes the pope will work with Beijing to improve relations. However, she repeated Beijing's long-standing demands that the Vatican cut ties with Taiwan, the self-governing democracy that China claims as its own territory, and not interfere in China's internal affairs.

The Vatican has said it is prepared to sever ties with Taiwan if Beijing provides assurances that Chinese Catholics will be allowed to worship freely and without Communist Party interference. The sides have not had formal ties since China ordered Chinese Catholics to cut links with the Holy See more than 50 years ago.