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Hong Kong protest on Opening of National People’s Congress

Hong kong (Agencies): Human rights and pro-democracy advocates marked the opening day of the annual session of China’s parliament, the National People’s Congress, with a protest outside the Central Government Liaison Office in Western, Hong Kong, on March 4, UCA News reported.

They are demanding that China release all human rights defenders, imprisoned writers, prisoners of conscience and those detained on religious grounds. 

They are calling for China to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as implement its own constitution under which citizens enjoy–among other things–freedom of speech and religion, in addition to the right to assemble and demonstrate.

Or Yan-yan, project officer of the Justice and Peace Commission, said, “Ratification by the National People’s Congress and implementation of international human rights standards, which includes protection of religious freedom, have been delayed for 15 years since China signed the covenant in 1998.” 

She also called for the release of Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin, from Shanghai, who has been under house arrest in Sheshan Seminary for nine months, as well as some clergy from the unofficial Church community in northern Hebei province, who have been missing for several years.

The people at the protest reiterated their demands in an open letter to the congress, which they stuck on the entrance to the liaison office after officials refused to come out and accept it.

Nearly 3,000 deputies of the congress are attending the plenary meeting in Beijing, which lasts from March 5 to 17. 

Outgoing premier, Wen Jiabao, opened the congress by delivering the government work report in which he claimed that over the past five years, China had fully implemented its policy of freedom of religious belief, and made progress in the legalisation and standardisation of managing religious affairs.

The congress will also see the country’s leadership officially changing hands, with outgoing president, Hu Jintao, and Wen finishing their second five-year term in office.

Meanwhile, AsiaNews reported that nine bishops, at least four of whom were illicitly ordained and two of whom are under excommunication, have been appointed or re-appointed as members of the congress or the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. 

Bishop Joseph Huang Bingzhang, from Shantou, who is illicitly ordained and incurred excommunication in 2011, is newly appointed to the congress. 

Bishop Joseph Ma Yinglin, from Kunmin, president of the Chinese Conference of Catholic Bishops, which is not recognised by the Holy See; Bishop Vincent Zhan Silu, from Mindong, vice-president of the conference; and Bishop Paul Lei Shiyin, from Leshan, vice-president of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association; were all named to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. 

Bishop Lei also incurred excommunication in 2011.

Named to the Committee for Ethnic and Religious Affairs of the consultative conference are Bishop Joseph Li Shan, from Beijing; Bishop Shen Bin, from Haimen; Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian, from Shanghai; Bishop John Fan Xinyao, from Linyi; Bishop Paul Meng Qinglu, from Hohhot; and a layprson, Liu Yuanlong.

Or told UCA News that she does not expect any changes under Hu’s successor, Xi Jinping, despite calls to implement provisions in the constitution and the anti-corruption stance he has made since becoming the head of Chinese Communist Party last November.

“During the terms of Hu and Wen, suppression of political dissidents and human rights defenders was the most severe,” since the country adopted the open-door policy three decades ago, Or explained.

She said she felt particularly disappointed with Wen, as he failed to deliver on his reformist pledges and meet public expectations, despite being dubbed the people’s premier.

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