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China : MEPs call for freedom of religion and belief

ICC NOTE: It is important to remember how influential western pressure can be on the eastern countries. Whether on the policy-making level, or at the grassroots of society, the West plays a crucial role in helping to secure the practice of religious freedom for East Asian countries, like China . The EU is using its position of power here to pressure Chinese representatives to prioritize the issue of human rights.

May 31, 2006

In the last few months, Beijing has sent out contradictory messages concerning its relations with the main faith communities active in China . While the Chinese Government claims that it is liberalising its policy on religion it has recently adopted a number of measures that have angered the leaders of the main religious communities, and their followers.

” China ‘s constitution states that its citizens enjoy freedom of religious belief, but this is not the case. For each of the five officially recognised religions there is a Government-affiliated association to monitor and supervise their activities: the Chinese Buddhist Association, the Catholic Patriotic Association, the Protestant Three-Self Patriotic Movement, the Chinese Islamic Association and the Chinese Daoist Association. All religious groups are obliged to register with the appropriate religious organisation. I believe the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion and belief should be able to assess the situation concerning religious freedom – or the lack of it – in China , and she should also be granted access to the Laogai forced labour camps where believers of all faiths are detained.

Dr. Charles Tannock MEP, Vice President of the Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights, said: ” China is the EU’s second largest trading partner but this commercial closeness is not matched by the PRC’s lamentable track record on a whole range of human rights issues. Many people are familiar with the repression of the Tibetans and the Buddhists but less is known of repression of religious minorities particularly Falun Gong practitioners, unregistered Christian groups and Uighur Muslims. China in its defence claims that, as it is the largest country in the world with 1.3 billion people, it cannot afford western style freedom of _expression and conscience, as this would lead to a breakdown of national cohesion and law and order. However India , also with over 1 billion people, manages to be a democracy and have a largely tolerant multi-cultural society in spite of its enormous size and it still grows economically and has a thriving free press. China in contrast even feels it has to censor the internet! Its systematic use of torture and the inappropriate use of the death penalty have also led to widespread condemnation in the west.

“We know that China is sensitive to outside western pressure and that a tough message from us gets through to Chinese leading opinion formers that elected representatives in the EU do care how China treats its own people.”

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