Posted on Jan 23, 2019
The international community, including the European Union, is being pressed to do more to help combat “a war being waged” against religious groups in China.
The appeal was made at a conference on the plight facing people in China who belong to a religious group including Uyghurs, the Hui, Muslims and Christians.
One speaker, Catholic missionary Bernardo Cervellera, said, “It is clear the Chinese regime is waging war on religious minorities. All this is being done in the name of ‘security’ and national patriotism.”
The event heard from a range of experts who each spoke of their concerns.
Bob Fu, president of China Aid, told the audience that many members of religious minorities were currently languishing in “re-education centres” where they are subjected to Chinese communist party indoctrination programmes.
He likened these to Nazi concentration camps, adding, “The only thing missing are the gas chambers although the Chinese authorities do talk about a ‘final solution.’
“People sent to these places are forced to sign a form renouncing their faith otherwise they are subject to all sorts of punishments.”
Another speaker, K.Alray spoke emotionally about how he was forced to flee China in 2005 at the age of 19 and now lived in exile in the United States.
Fighting back tears, he estimates there are up to 3m in the so-called concentration camps in China but that they “struggled to have their voices heard.”
Members of religious groups also face multiple other problems such as forced marriages and rape, he said, adding that the “only god that you are allowed to worship in China is the leader of the Chinese communist party.”
Father Cervellera, editor of AsiaNews, spoke of the “utter and mindless destruction” perpetrated by the Chinese regime against places of worship such as convents and religious temples.
In 2018, he said 30 Roman Catholic churches were closed by the regime adding that “it is clear the regime wants to oust Christianity and replace it by the god of Xi Jinping (the Chinese president).”
He added, “The regime is trampling on the rights of people to worship a religion of their choice. All this is being done partly thanks to the indifference of the international community which turns a blind eye to what is going on in China.”
He said few countries speak out vocally against human rights abuses in the country, saying, “The international community seems to be suffering some sort of myopia on this issue.”
Such suffering, he told the debate, was taking place at a time when there has been an upsurge in interest and support for religious minorities in China, including in the catholic and protestant faiths.
Father Cervellera, when asked why the regime went to such lengths to suppress religious freedom, said he believes it is a false attempt to maintain “unity.”
Marco Respinti, who edits “Bitter Winter”, which chronicles the “massive violations” of human rights and religious freedom in China, told the audience that one possible way of tacking the issue was for the international community, including the EU, to impose a “ethical tariff” on China.
He also wants the EU leaders and European Parliament to “make full use” of their meetings with the Chinese authorities to convey their concerns and urge China to comply with international standards regarding freedom of religion or belief.
Another panellist, Willy Fautre, director of Human Rights Without Frontiers, a leading Brussels-based rights NGO, said the issues being debated at the conference did not enjoy high visibility in the western media.
Even so, he said members of other religions, including Buddhism and Taoism, had also being persecuted along with The Church of Almighty God and Falun Gong, a religious movement setup in 1990 which, ironically, had been praised and welcomed initially by the Chinese communist regime.
“These groups are being targeted in the name of atheism and the CCP which opposes all religious minorities.”
Fautre also spoke of arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial killings, human organ harvesting and temple closures as examples of abuses being carried out against religious groups.
He also accused the EU and the West of a “timid” response to such issues, contrasting the EU reaction to the sectarian violence in the Rohingya conflict with how Europe had responded to religious persecution in China.
His comments were endorsed by Austrian Socialist MEP Josef Weidenholzer who, along with Dutch member Bas Belder and Cristian Preda, a Romanian MEP, also attended the conference.
Bringing the lively two hour debate to a close, Weidenholzer spoke of the “very severe” problems the conference had raised.
“What we have heard today is horrendous and quite inconceivable,” he said.
Noting that tens of thousands of Chinese tourists visit Europe every year, he went on, “China is not so far away, it is part of our world and there is a lot of trade and cultural exchanges between Europe and China.
“However, something is clearly going wrong and we cannot accept it.”
The event was organised by three political groups in the European Parliament, the EPP, Socialists and ECR.
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