An “Ethical Tariff” on China to Defeat Silence and Tepidity

A major three-partisan conference on religious freedom in China held at the European Parliament urged international institutions to wake up in the face of CCP brutality.

Marco Respinti 

Freedom of Religion in China: under this title, three members of the European Parliament (MEPs) of different countries, religion and political orientation have summoned a seminar at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, on January 23, 2019, sponsored by the three main political groups in the hemicycle.

To address the topic, Mr. Bastiaan Belder, a Dutch MEP for the European Conservative and Reformists Group (ECR), Mr. Christian Dan Preda, a Romanian from the European People’s Party (EPP), and Mr. Josef Weidenholser, an Austrian representing the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats ‒ that is to say, “traditional” political representation, respectively, Conservative Right, Christian-Democrat Center, and Democratic Left ‒ invited Mr. Bob Fu, Mr. Kuzzat Altay (instead of Mr. Omar Bekali, who couldn’t come front the United States for a visa problem), Father Bernardo Cervellera, Mr. Willy Fautré, and the undersigned.

No less than 100 persons filled the room. Among them, Mr. Harry Tseng,
Ambassador of the Taipei Representative Office in the European Union and Belgium, the Hungarian EPP representative Mr. László Tőkés, the British ECR representative Mr. Sajjad Karim, Mr. Tashi Phuntsok, the Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to EU, West Europe & the Maghreb, journalists, representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), as well as Chinese, Tibetan, and Uyghur exiles, notably, Mr. Dolkun Isa, president of the World Uyghur Congress, plus Ms. Keda Kaceli, Albanian author. 

The speakers had all but one voice. A total war is being waged against religion in China and the international community has to urgently do something to stop it. This is why the three MEPs, as Mr. Belder and Mr. Preda said in their welcoming and introductory remarks, were very proud of having hosted the symposium in one of the principal institutions of the world political scene.

Mr. Fu, a Chinese American pastor as well as the founder (in 2002) and president of ChinaAid, an evangelical organization based in Midland, Texas, which provides legal aid to Christians in China, underlined that the first duty we all have is never to forget those who suffer. He said this, recalling the example of Romanian Christian minister Richard Wurmbrand (1909-2001), imprisoned and tortured by the Communist regime of this country, and founder of the international organization Voice of the Martyrs, which continue to this day to help persecuted Christians around the world.

Remembering that “transformation through education” camps in Xinjiang resemble Nazi concentration camps, and that for Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities the CCP is literally using the ill-famed Nazi’s expression “final solution” that envisioned the genocidal fate of the Jews, Mr. Fu introduced the second speaker, Mr. Altay, who was compelled to flee from China in 2005 at 19. An entrepreneur, founder and president of a firm in Fairfax, Virginia, whose name speaks for itself – Uyghur – he heard his father saying to him: “Son, they are taking me.” Then the 67-year-old man disappeared as if swallowed in the swamp of the Xinjiang camps, where according to the United Nations, 1,5 million people are detained, but, Altay said, Uyghurs think that this number is double. What young Kuzzat regrets most is that, if for the Nazi camps the world was able to see (horrible) pictures and videos, for camps in Xinjiang, images are so few (Bitter Winter has contributed increasing their number) that people take this as an excuse to turn their face away. Almost in tears, Altay crossed through a controversial topic that the CCP is using to justify its spectacular repression and in conclusion he said in a loud voice: “I am not asking for independence, I’m asking to save lives.”

Then Fr. Cervellera took the floor. The director of AsiaNews, the official press agency in four languages (English, Chinese, Italian, and Spanish) of the Roman Catholic Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), widely regarded as the leading Catholic expert on China, Fr. Cervellera said that after the Vatican-China Deal of 2018 nothing changed for persecuted Catholics. In words reportedly shared with one of the underground bishops, noted the missionary, “the Pope is said to have referred that if the agreement was not signed, China threatened to illegally ordain 45 bishops ‘independent’ from the Holy See, creating the basis for a real schism. The agreement was, therefore, blackmail. In addition, immediately after the signing of the agreement, in many regions of China the United Front and the Patriotic Association held rallies for priests and bishops explaining to them that ‘despite the agreement,’ they had to work for the implementation of an independent Church. The destruction of crosses, churches, indoctrination sessions, arrests continued just as before the agreement, if not worse.” It is then clear, he added, “the government and the Chinese Communist Party are engaged in a real religious war to oust the God of Christians and replace Him with the god-Xi Jinping, which implies a total submission to the Communist Party.”

And this led directly to what yours truly said to the Brussels audience. After having illustrated what Bitter Winter is and does, I stated one of my deepest convictions: “The CCP considers God its very enemy. Why? Because God is a direct rival of the CCP. Believers are increasingly compelled to remove and destroy religious images to substitute them with portraits of Mao Zedong and Xi Jinping. They are jealous gods. […] God must become extinct. In the meantime, the Chinese government is making believers extinct.”

For this reason, I proposed imposing an “ethical tariff” on China and called on the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission, Ms. Federica Mogherini, and the members of the European Parliament to make full use of their meetings with the Chinese authorities as well as the UN human rights mechanisms to convey their concerns to the Chinese government and urge it to comply with international standards regarding freedom of religion or belief.

Willy Fautré, co-founder and director of Human Rights Without Frontiers, a leading Brussels-based NGO, as well as Associate Editor of Bitter Winter, further developed the topic focusing on the persecution suffered by religions like Buddhism and Taoism. That can’t really be accused by the CCP of being tools of “Western colonization” but are persecuted altogether. He then dealt with the brutal repression of new religious movements like Falun Gong and The Church of Almighty God (CAG). By showing pictures of destructions and harassments reported by Bitter Winter, Mr. Fautré strengthened the gruesome reality of persecution through arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial killings, and human organ harvesting. He also spoke of the big difficulties that Chinese exiles persecuted for their faith have when they ask for asylum in many Western countries, a situation which is particularly dire for CAG members.

He concluded: “When Islam is misused and instrumentalized by violent and terrorist groups for political purposes, law-abiding, tolerant and peace-loving ordinary Muslims and Muslim leaders shout loud and clear ‘Not on my name. Not on the name of Islam.’ Recently, atheist, agnostic, secular organizations, and individuals in Europe have taken sides with religious organizations to condemn blasphemy laws in Pakistan and to save the life of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death. They now have the opportunity to shout loud and clear about the persecution of all faiths in China ‘Not on my name. Not on the name of atheism.’”

As Mr. Weidenholzer said in his final remarks, “We can’t accept what is going on in China. We need more information, and we must be more outspoken.” The commitment is to have more conferences like this and to challenge public awareness in every lawful way. Silence and tepidity are the best allies of the CCP.