Three speakers at the yearly Human Rights Implementation Meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe ask OSCE participating States to grant asylum to religion-based refugees fleeing China.
by Marco Respinti
On September 13, during the yearly Human Rights Implementation Meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Warsaw, three speakers have asked States in the OSCE area to grant asylum to religion-based refugees who flee from China.
Willy Fautré, of Human Rights Without Frontiers, focused on The Church of Almighty God (CAG). He explained the persecution of this Christian new religious movement in China, mentioning cases of torture and extra-judicial killings, and the scandalous attitude of several OSCE participating States, which do not recognize the obvious persecution of the CAG, refuse to grant asylum to the majority of CAG refugees, and even deport some of them back to China.
This scandal has also been denounced by Rosita Šorytė, president of the International Observatory of Religious Liberty of Refugees (ORLIR). She mentioned the case of Sister Zhao Xueliang, deported from Germany to China, where she has “disappeared,” on August 31, despite appeals from NGOs, the Red Cross, and the German Evangelical Church. “My pleading today to the representatives of the participating States, is: please hear and remember the name of The Church of Almighty God,” said Ms. Šorytė. “Please carry out serious research about this group, do not believe what Chinese media, and Western media that copy them, are saying but read reliable information from independent NGOs and academic sources. We have no right to play with people’s lives and we cannot send them to their death.”
Massimo Introvigne, editor-in-chief of Bitter Winter, spoke on behalf of CESNUR, the Center for Studies on New Religions. He mentioned three negative developments for religious liberty in China, affecting the OSCE participating States: the restrictive new Religious Affairs Regulation of February 2018, the crackdown on groups the regime labels and proscribes as xie jiao (“heterodox teachings”), including Falun Gong and the CAG, and the internment of more than one million Uyghurs in concentration camps, called “transformation through education.” This affects the OSCE area causing a growing influx of refugees from China, who are primarily Uyghurs and other Muslims in Central Asia and primarily members of the CAG in Western Europe and North America. Introvigne reported that “because of the fake news, general hostility to refugees, and confusions about how refugee laws should be interpreted, out of more than 2,200 asylum requests of members of this Church [CAG] in the OSCE area, excluding the United States, only 320 have been accepted.
We commend Canada and Sweden for its prevalence of favorable decisions and note that the Italian authorities have started a cooperation with scholars for receiving more accurate information on this and other groups. But in other countries, asylum seekers of The Church of Almighty God and other persecuted Chinese religions are rejected and, in some cases, deported back to China where they quickly ‘disappear.’
We recommend that serious and fair consideration be given to religion based asylum requests by Chinese refugees, including those from The Church of Almighty God, in all participating states, and that nobody should be deported without seriously evaluating the risks he or she would face in China, which may include incarceration, torture, and even death.”
Two CAG sisters currently living in The Netherlands and Italy also offered their testimonies.