An Open Letter to the Italian Minister of Economy, Mr. Giovanni Tria. While Discussing Economy with China, Do Not Forget Religious Liberty
Dear Mr. Tria:
We wish you a fruitful visit to China on behalf of Italian economic interests.
Last July, Italy was an official participant in the Washington D.C. “Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom”. There, 82 countries solemnly agreed that religious liberty should be regarded as a non-negotiable cornerstone of international relations.
We hope that the good economic relationships between China and Italy may help you in raising with your Chinese counterparts the matter of the gross violations of religious liberty in China, which became even worse with the new laws on religion that came into force in 2018.
Reliable academic sources report that one and a half million Chinese are detained in “transformation through education” camps because of their religious beliefs. They include Uyghur and non-Uyghur Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists, Christians of several denominations, and members of new religious movements banned as “heterodox teachings” (xie jiao) and continuously defamed through fake news campaigns, including The Church of Almighty God and Falun Gong. Several NGOs documented numerous instances of mass arrests, extra-judicial killings, and torture. Even in the government-controlled religious communities, religion is treated in the same way as pornography, since it is entirely forbidden to minors, who are not even allowed to enter places of worship.
Laudably, Italy is a leading country in defending religious liberty internationally. We trust that your visit to China will be an opportunity to reiterate this position.
CAP-LC Coordination des Associations et des Particuliers pour la Liberté de Conscience
CESNUR – Center for Studies on New Religions
EIFRF European Inter-Religious Forum for Religious Freedom
FOB – European Federation for Freedom of Belief
FOREF – Forum for Religious Freedom Europe
HRWF – Human Rights Without Frontiers
LIREC – Center for Studies on Freedom of Belief, Religion and Conscience
ORLIR – International Observatory of Religious Liberty of Refugees
Bitter Winter plans to report on how religions are allowed, or not allowed, to operate in China and how some are severely persecuted after they are labeled as “xie jiao,” or heterodox teachings. We plan to publish news difficult to find elsewhere, analyses, and debates.
Placed under the editorship of Massimo Introvigne, one of the most well-known scholars of religion internationally, “Bitter Winter” is a cooperative enterprise by scholars, human rights activists, and members of religious organizations persecuted in China (some of them have elected, for obvious reasons, to remain anonymous).