Dozens of underground human rights reporters arrested in #China

| January 23, 2019

“At least 45 Chinese reporters working underground for an Italy-based media outlet were arrested, interrogated, and accused of espionage in China in the last six months,” declared Marco Respinti, a panelist at a conference on religious freedom in China organized this Wednesday at the European Parliament – writes Willy Fautré, director of Human Rights Without Frontiers.

Respinti, a journalist and Director-in-Charge of Bitter Winter (BW), an international online daily magazine on religious liberty and human rights in China published in eight languages by CESNUR in Italy, also reported that in August 2018 the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) authorities designated Bitter Winter as a “foreign hostile website” due to BW publishing secret documents and news reports about the CCP’s suppression of religious beliefs and human rights violations.

The CCP authorities retaliated with repeated attempts to hack BW’s website and arresting its local reporters and contributors. BW reporters who are arrested for smuggling out videos, photos, court trial documents, or any other evidence of persecution are usually accused of “divulgation of state secrets” or “involvement in infiltration by foreign forces.”

Bitter Winter covers the persecution of all faiths in its daily reports; all religions are persecuted under Xi Jinping in China. Active believers of all faiths are arbitrarily arrested and forced to sign declarations recanting their religious beliefs and swearing allegiance to the atheist Communist Party. Places of worship are closed or destroyed, and minors are forbidden to attend religious services in places of worship, both in public or private.

One million Uyghur Muslims are forced to attend political “transformation through education” sessions in detention conditions. BW reporters have managed to smuggle out pictures and videos from these camps. One reporter who secretly filmed such a camp in Xinjiang was arrested and has “disappeared” after his arrest.

Pastors are arrested and sentenced to prison terms for holding prayer meetings in private houses; crosses have been removed down from both Catholic and Protestant churches; religious symbols have been removed from religious places and replaced by photos of Mao Zedong or Xi Jinping.

From 28 October to 1 November 2018, thirty-five Buddhist temples were shut down or sealed off in one province alone. Monks and nuns, most of them seniors, were thrown out onto the streets overnight.

Taoist temples have been destroyed on spurious grounds; this was the case with the Yaochi Palace Temple, which has a thousand-year history.

Falun Gong practitioners and members of The Church of Almighty God (CAG) make up the highest number of arrests and prisoners. As of 1 January 2019, the online database of religious prisoners of the Brussels-based NGO Human Rights Without Frontiers contained over 2000 and 1600 documented cases, respectively.

In a recent crackdown of a CAG community, five senior leaders were sentenced to lengthy prison terms. Ms Bao Shuguang was sentenced to thirteen years in prison and a fine of USD 19,000, and the four others will each serve an eleven-year prison term and pay a fine of USD 17,000.

More than 2500 CAG members have applied for political asylum in various EU member states. Unfortunately, despite the magnitude of the persecution and their high number of prisoners of conscience, few of them are granted political asylum. The worst offenders in Europe are France, Netherlands, Belgium, and Switzerland, which issued 203, 33, 10, and 24 orders of departure, respectively. The peaceful believers, mainly young women, might be arrested at any moment, at home or on the street, deported to China, and put back in the hands of their persecutors.

At the conference on religious freedom in China hosted by MEPs Bastiaan Belder (ECR), Christian Dan Preda (EPP), and Josef Weidenholzer (S&D), Respinti urged HR/VP Federica Mogherini and the members of the European Parliament to make full use of their meetings  with the Chinese authorities as well as the UN human rights mechanisms to convey their concerns to the Chinese government and urge it to comply with international standards regarding freedom of religion or belief.

Willy Fautré, is director of Human Rights Without Frontiers

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Category: A Frontpage, China, EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, Politics, Religion

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