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Dozens of underground human rights reporters arrested in #China

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“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.

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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.

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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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Climate Action: EU-China joint press communiqué on the fight against climate change ahead of COP26

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Following their second high-level environment and climate dialogue on 27 September 2021, Commission Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans and Vice Premier of the People's Republic of China Han Zheng reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris Agreement and a successful outcome of the COP26 in Glasgow. In a joint press release, they stressed the urgency to act immediately, notably in the light of the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. They also confirmed that that the high-level environment and climate dialogue will continue to be a key platform between the EU and China to enhance actions and bilateral cooperation on environment and in the fight against climate change. During their last meeting, they discussed various aspects of the global climate and biodiversity crises, with a focus on the forthcoming UNFCCC COP26 in Glasgow and on COP15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Kunming. More details on the discussion are available here

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China lodges stern representations with Australia on Taiwan comments

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The Chinese foreign ministry said on Monday (11 October) that China has lodged stern representations with Australia over "inappropriate" comments by former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott about Taiwan, write Yew Lun Tian and Ryan Woo, Reuters.

Abbott last week visited Taiwan, which is claimed by China, in a personal capacity, met Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, and told a security forum that China may lash out with its economy slowing and finances "creaking". Read more.

"The relevant words and actions by the Australian politician go against the One China Principle and send a seriously wrong signal," Zhao Lijian, a spokesman at the Chinese foreign ministry, told a regular media briefing. "China is firmly opposed to this. We have made stern representations to Australia."

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Corruption in China’s chamber of justice

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The CCP’s former justice minister Fu Zhenghua is now under probe for serious disciplinary violations - he had previously launched a politically motivated prosecution against prominent dissident Guo Wengui AKA Miles Kwok, writes Louis Auge.

In recent days the Chinese Communist Party has signalled its intention to pursue its anti-corruption efforts even amidst the higher echelons of the ruling party’s legal and judicial spheres. The campaign, launched by President Xi Jinping in 2018 with the slogan "Saohei chu'e," meaning "sweep away black and eliminate evil", has targeted a staggering number of purportedly corrupt state actors over the course of the past three years.

China's legislature has hailed the campaign as a huge success – having exposed almost 40,000 alleged criminal cells and corrupt companies, and more than 50,000 Communist Party and government officials having been punished for allegedly abetting them, according to official statistics. And Beijing is showing no signs of slowing down its pursuit of individuals they perceive to have fallen foul of the system – even at the top.

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In what is being perceived as the latest show of China's iron fist against corruption in the political and legal system, over the weekend it was announced that Fu Zhenghua, the deputy director of the social and legal affairs committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) - China's top political advisory body - is under disciplinary and supervisory investigation for suspected violations of CCP protocol.

Before taking up his post at the CPPCC, Mr. Fu had served as justice minister and deputy police chief for the Beijing municipal police department, where he was praised by the CCP hierarchy for cracking down on the city's sex industry, earning himself a promotion to executive vice minister for public security.

He was also known for cracking down on prominent and successful families. In 2014, Mr. Fu a conducted what many critics perceived to be politically motivated prosecution against Guo Wengui AKA Miles Kwok, a high profile CCP dissident now living in exile in the United States. Mr. Kwok subsequently revealed that Mr. Fu had ordered an investigation into the family finances of Wang Qishan, the country’s current Vice President, causing rumours to swirl about Mr. Fu’s political future.

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The allegations against him failed to stick however – with Mr. Fu going on to be promoted to the position of Minister of Justice – but his path up the CCP power ranks now appears to have run out of road. He is not the only high ranking official to feel the wrath of Beijing recently. News of the investigation came just days after the CCP announced it was expelling former vice minister of public security Sun Lijun, having accusing him of "forming cliques and cabals to take over a key department," and of keeping a private collection of confidential documents.

Regarding Mr. Fu, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) - the ruling Communist Party's anti-corruption watchdog - announced simply that he is under investigation for "serious violations of party discipline and law." The one-sentence statement did not offer any further details into the indictment.

According to CNN, the announcement was welcomed by a wide range of figures online, from rank-and-file police officers and prison guards to investigative journalists, human rights lawyers and intellectuals. No doubt outspoken CCP critics such as Mr. Kwok will also have felt vindicated by the development, to say the least.

In recent months President Xi has stepped up his party’s clamp down on rising political stars and overly powerful officials. However what is unusual about the fate of Mr. Fu's is how loudly and widely – in other words, unanimously – it is being celebrated, both by people working for the regime, and by those who have been subject to its repression.

Following news of his downfall, several veteran investigative journalists said on social media they had been targeted by Mr. Fu for their hard-hitting reports, on topics ranging from illegal detention of petitioners to local government corruption.

"The targets of Fu Zhenghua's crackdown are people at the core of China's civil society. Therefore, the country's whole intellectual sector and the wider public are all thrilled by (his fall from grace)," said Wu Qiang, a political analyst in Beijing. "His rise to power represented the aggressive iron-fist approach that has shaped China's governance over the past decade."

Mr. Fu's aggressive approach was also applied to police officers and prison guards, many of whom have been celebrating his downfall on social media. Comments make reference to Mr. Fu’s imposition of draconian working conditions for entry-level officers, such as not allowing prison guards to take breaks during night shifts.

Some analysts have suggested that this series of recent purges demonstrate declining trust from the Chinese leadership in the country's domestic security agencies. In the words of Wu Qiang, “It is very difficult for Beijing to have political trust. This is the biggest crisis in its governance". For critics such as Miles Kwok, it is also a sign of that the fractures within the centre of the ruling party are beginning to widen. Whether it is chasm that can be bridged is anyone’s guess.

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