CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 25 May 2019

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Call for Human Rights Ministry in China

HONG KONG (SE): More than 1,200 people have signed an open letter to the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, calling for better protection of citizens’ rights under the law.

Radio Free Asia also reported on February 5 that they have combined the call with one for the establishment of a nationwide system to monitor human rights abuses.

The letter, which is entitled, Stability is Founded on Rights Protection, calls on Xi to allow rights groups to register legally, to set up a human rights ministry and to enact laws guaranteeing the right to freedom of speech, as well as a free press and the right to free association and demonstration.

The letter had been signed by more than 1,200 people by the morning of February 5. It also calls for a strike hard campaign against human rights violators and a collaboration mechanism for non-government groups to work with officials on human rights issues.

“Of course, we hope that China will ultimately achieve government by constitution, but this is very hard for a country like China to achieve, so there is a process,” Wuhan-based rights advocate, Qin Yongmin, a co-founder of the banned opposition China Democracy Party and author of the letter, told Radio Free Asia.

Fifty-seven-year-old Qin did a lengthy jail term for subversion after he helped found the Democracy Party in 1998 and recently called on the new generation of leaders under Xi to enter into peaceful dialogue with Chinese citizens, or risk the fall of the regime in a manner similar to that of Romanian dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu.

He said that there are currently no official bodies in China charged with the protection of human rights and, while non-government rights groups do exist, they are, strictly speaking, illegal.

A Shandong-based rights lawyer, Li Xiangyang, said he had signed the letter, even though he suspects it will have little effect.

“We are citizens living under a dictatorial system,” Qin said. “We don’t have the opportunity to oppose the government with guns and knives, so all we can do is demand a dialogue.”

“I guess it is our form of protest,” he reflected.

Li and Qin both say that the pace of rights violations has been upped in recent times, citing large numbers of detentions of ordinary citizens last year, as well as the suicide death of Xue Fushun, the father of prominent Shandong rights advocate, Xue Mingkai, in police custody in late January, which many regard as suspicious.

Qin’s letter laid the blame for an increase in rights violations firmly at the door of Political and Legal Affairs Committee, which, until November 2012, was run by hard-line security chief, Zhou Yongkang.

Some of Zhou’s family and close allies are currently under investigation by the party disciplinary agency, sparking widespread speculation that he is himself the subject of a behind-the-scenes probe and political purge.

“(Zhou’s tenure) saw large numbers of suspicious deaths and miscarriages of justice,” the letter penned by Qin, says.

He added that the rights of Chinese citizens to a livelihood, property, freedom of expression, and appeal are all subject to wanton violations.

Qin was initially sentenced to eight years in prison for counterrevolutionary propaganda and subversion in the wake of the China Democracy Wall movement in 1981.

He received a further two years’ of re-education through labour in 1993, after he took part in penning the Peace Charter.

 

In 1998, he became the editor of the China Human Rights Observer Newsletter and, together with others attempted to register the China Democratic Party.

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