Accredited NGOs denounce persecution and torture of Muslims, Buddhists, and members of The Church of Almighty God at the 39th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.
The 39th Session of the Human Rights Council concludes in Geneva on September 28, 2018. In these sessions, only NGOs accredited with the ECOSOC (Economic and Social Council of the United Nations) are authorized to present statements. China has been denounced for its gross violation of religious liberty and human rights by several ECOSOC-accredited NGOs. Their statements have been published on the Web site of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
The Society for Threatened People stated it is “deeply concerned about arbitrary arrests and extrajudicial detentions of Uyghurs and Kazakhs in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) in People’s Republic of China. Starting in April 2017, Uyghurs and Kazakhs accused of having ‘strong religious views’ and ‘politically incorrect’ ideas have been detained in political re-education camps throughout the XUAR. Uyghurs and Kazakhs are complaining since years about religious repression, cultural destruction, sinicization, and discrimination.”
“Satellite photos are documenting that these re-education centers have been increasing in size in summer 2018. Construction work has been carried out in many camps since January 2018. For example, one camp close to the city of Kashgar in Western XUAR has doubled in size since November 2017. The full extent of this re-education program was long obscured because there is no free access for human rights experts or independent journalists to XUAR. A senior Chinese official, Hu Lianhe of the United Front Work Department, publicly acknowledged the existence of these camps in August 2018, but said they were ‘vocational training centers’ and denied mass incarceration.”
“Despite massive fears, many family members of Uyghurs and Kazakhs are reporting about a wave of arbitrary arrests of Uyghurs of all ages and very different professions. Some Uyghur inhabitants of villages declared that almost no young men are left in their villages. Other ones reported that most of the adults in their region are required to attend some kind of political indoctrination or training. Every Uyghur or Kazakh family has members been forced to attend political education. Entire villages have been emptied due to this program of forced political indoctrination. Chinese official data on criminal arrests are indicating that in the year 2017 a fifth of all criminal arrests in China was registered in XUAR, despite that the region only has a population of 20 million, a minimal percentage in comparison to China’s 1.4 billion inhabitants. In some areas of rural XUAR, the internment program has increased to a dramatic size. So for example, in the Kuchar county of Aksu Prefecture, some 45,000 people have been detained in re-education camps due to information of local officials. That is slightly less than 10 percent of the local population. Some camps have 5,000 to 10,000 inmates, other camps up to 15,000 detainees. These Re-education centers are lacking any legal background. They are violating Chinese laws and numerous international human rights conventions. Interviews with former detainees and local officials are indicating that some 660,000 residents of Southern XUAR have been sent to re-education camps. The total number of Uyghur and Kazakh detainees for XUAR may be as high as one million or more.”
“There are many indications that besides these camps China’s State Security has forced up to 1.3 million Uyghurs and Kazakhs to attend mandatory day or evening re-education sessions in their villages or towns. These evening ‘study sessions’ in political re-education are evoking tragic memories of horrendous crimes against humanity committed in the name of the powerful Communist Party during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). Many older Uyghurs still are traumatized due to this psychological terror.”
The World Organization Against Torture focused on the situation of Tibetan Buddhists. It reported that in Tibet too “reports indicate the existence of numerous ‘legal education’ centers, in which people are arbitrarily detained for unspecified periods and forced to study Chinese laws and policies, watch pro-government propaganda videos and renounce their ethnic and religious identities. There are reports and allegations of detainees in these centers being subjected to torture, and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, including sexual abuse. The existence of such centers in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and elsewhere raises questions over the veracity of PRC’s claim that it fully abolished the ‘Re-education Through Labour’ system (Ch: laojiao) in 2013.” (In fact, as Bitter Winter documented, the laojiao were indeed abolished, but replaced by the “Transformation through Education” camps, which are even worse).
“In April this year, the Organization continued, 30 individuals were beaten and arbitrarily detained after protesting against plans to mine Sebtra Zagyen, a sacred mountain in Shakchu (Ch: Shaqu) Town in Diru (Ch: Biru) County, Nagchu (Ch: Naqu) Prefecture, TAR. Protests were triggered by the enforced disappearance of a village leader who had challenged an official order forcing villagers to sign a document allowing local government authorities to carry out mining at the sacred mountain. The project may have devastating consequences on the local environment and biodiversity, undermining the availability of drinking water for local residents. At the time of writing, there is no available information on the conditions of the 31 villagers, due to a clampdown on information. Torture allegations remain frequent.”
Christian Solidarity Worldwide added that Christians are also increasingly arrested and detained.
The Coordination des associations et particuliers pour la liberté de conscience (CAP-LC) presented the situation of The Church of Almighty God, a persecuted Chinese Christian new religious movement.
“The Church of Almighty God (CAG), CAP-LC explained, is the largest Chinese new religious movement. Governmental sources attribute to it four million members. It was founded in China in 1991, and its core belief is that Jesus Christ has returned to earth as Almighty God, incarnated as a Chinese woman currently living in the United States of America who teaches the fullness of truth.”
“Since 1995, the CAG has been in the list of banned groups (xie jiao, wrongly translated as ‘evil cults,’ but in fact meaning ‘heterodox teachings’). Under article 300 of Chinese Criminal Code, being active in a xie jiao is a crime punished with a jail penalty of three to seven years ‘or more.’ It is not necessary to be a leader of the CAG to be arrested. Being an ordinary member, and even being found in possession of CAG literature, is enough to be arrested, detained, and sentenced to heavy jail terms.”
“The CAG claims that more than 300,000 Church members have been arrested. Figures are impossible to confirm, but scholars point out the frequent news of arrests involving hundreds of CAG members in several Chinese provinces. NGOs have appealed to the United Nations documenting several instances of torture or even death in custody. CAG appears to suffer now more severe persecution than Falun Gong in China.”
“The Chinese authorities have launched massive campaigns of fake news to discredit the CAG and justify the persecution. The government successfully persuaded even respected Western media that in 2014 CAG members murdered a woman in a McDonald’s in Zhaoyuan. However, studies of the original trial documents by senior Western scholars led to the conclusion that the murder had been perpetrated by members of a different religious movement, which had a similar name but was not related to the CAG. In other cases of crimes ascribed to the CAG, scholars have reached the same conclusions.”
“From May 2018, the Chinese authorities conducted nationwide arrests against the CAG again, arresting thousands of CAG members in several provinces. For example, in the span between June 26 and 28, and in what they have called “Operation Thunder” launched in the province of Liaoning, nearly 300 people were arrested in Dalian and Panjin, 47 in Dandong, 39 in Chaoyang, 36 in Benxi, 23 in Jinzhou, 19 in Shenyang, 14 in Fuxin, nine in Fushun, eight in Huludao, five in Yingkou, two in Tieling, and one in Anshan. Their homes were searched, and large amounts of religious books on CAG and personal belongings were taken away by the police. This special operation was classified as top secret. To prevent any leaks prior to the arrests, the government kept information on the targets from police officers and purposefully dispatched them to other areas during the operation. Officers were required to sign a confidentiality agreement. The authorities released the list of names for arrest only in the final ten minutes before the operation commenced on June 26. Officers also received a group notice through WeChat, a Chinese social media platform, strictly requiring them to work day and night to complete the arrests. And the numbers of reports on CAG members arrested we receive are increasing every day. We have also received disturbing reports of police brutalities, home searches carried out without warrants, and torture in connection with ‘Operation Thunder.’
NGOs have also documented the highly suspicious deaths while in custody of more than 30 CAG leaders and members, which leads us to conclude that extra-judicial killing of CAG devotees is a frequent practice in China.”
“We urge the government of China, CAP-LC concluded, to stop its persecution of the CAG, investigate charges of torture and extrajudicial killings and hold those responsible accountable, and cease its international campaign of fake news against CAG. We also urge all member states of the UN where CAG members fleeing China seek asylum, to generously welcome and protect these refugees, considering that, should they be sent back to China, they would face arrest and detention, or worse.”