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ICC Note: It is encouraging that Europe is stepping in and talking to China about their lack or religious freedom. Pray that it has an impact on the Chinese government.

Europe Calls On China To Respect Human Rights and Religious Freedom

9/7/2006 China (AsiaNews) – On the eve of the European Union-China summit, 351 MEPs have slammed China for continued violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms like religious freedom by voting in favour of the Belder report on EU-China relations. The report reaffirms the importance of the dialogue between Brussels and Beijing and singles out the issues that should govern future relations. Fundamental freedoms, human rights, minority protection and the right of the Catholic Church to appoint its own bishops top the list.

For the first time, the European parliament raises the issue of an honest and constructive dialogue between the People’s Republic and the Holy See, calling on the Chinese authorities to release imprisoned bishops and end the unjust persecution and detention of Christians.

European lawmakers deplore in particular the contradiction between art 36 of the Chinese constitution which guarantees freedom of religion and the endless interference by the state in the internal affairs of religious groups, especially when it comes to training, selecting and appointing ministers, not to mention the political indoctrination they must undergo.

The report observes that today Christians attending “illegal” places of worship (Protestant house-churches and underground Catholic groups) are more numerous than those worshipping at “patriotic” churches. It also emphasizes that both groups are law-abiding and therefore not a threat to public security. For this reason, it urges the Chinese government to stop persecuting and detaining members of Christian groups, reiterating the right of Christians not belonging to “patriotic Churches” to freely practice their religion.

The report mentions examples of violations of freedom of religion when the authorities made unlawfully filled vacancies in some Episcopal sees, which are the result of pressures and threats exerted on the Catholic clergy loyal to the Vatican . Such ordinations violate the spirit of recent statements made by Chinese authorities about engaging the Holy See in an open and honest dialogue.

For the report, the Church and its institutions should be guaranteed freedom and autonomy, independent of any external interference. Failure to do so would not only mean rejecting negotiations over what each sides requires in their mutual relations but would also undermine trust in the dialogue and in future advances of freedom in China.

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