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The European parliament adopts a report on EU-China relations that, in addition to economic issues, slams Beijing’s human rights record and its lack of respect for religious freedom. For the first time, lawmakers express their support for Vatican-China dialogue. They also ask the Chinese to stop blocking AsiaNews’s website.
Brussels (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. Equally important are the right of the Tibetan people to autonomy, China’s obligation to pursue reunification with Taiwan peacefully, and Hong Kong people’s right to a fair electoral system based on the principles of a pluralistic democracy.
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 emphasises 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 (on April 30 in Kunming, Yunnan; on May 3 in Wuhan, Anhui), 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.
The report also refers to the ongoing campaign launched by the authorities against a free and open internet. In adopting the document, the European parliament condemns the law allowing internet censorship, demanding that AsiaNews.it‘s site not be blocked. AsiaNews.it is not only an incomparable source of information on Asia and human rights protection but is also a venue that favours the dialogue between the Vatican and the People’s Republic of China, which in turn means the unity of the Chinese Church.
AsiaNews itself has covered extensively many of the human rights issues raised in the Belder report, issues like removing organs from executed prisoners and the repression of Falun Gong members, from land grabs at the expense of farmers to the virtual enslavement of migrant workers, from the lack of worker rights to the negative consequences of the one child policy.
“The vote by the European parliament is an important signal; on the eve of the [China-EU] summit in Helsinki, it is a sign of support for the European Commission and Council,” said MEPs Antonio Tajani and Mario Mauro.
“The Belder report confirms once more the importance of China’s role, but it also defends the fundamental values of European Christian Democratic ideas, asserting the need for proper rules both the EU and China must respect if they wish to build a constructive bilateral relationship. In doing so, parliament has recognised the soundness of Catholic demands on the one hand, and that of the business community on the other.”.
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