CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 8 December 2018

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Hangzhou under lockdown for G20

HANGZHOU (SE): Rights advocates are calling on the leaders of the G20 nations not to ignore China’s human rights record during the G20 summit scheduled to take place in Hangzhou from September 4 to 5.

The Chinese Human Rights Defenders describe the current crackdown on human rights as being the most severe the country has seen in decades.

“When you arrive in China... it will be during the worst human rights crackdown in the country since the suppression of the 1989 pro-democracy movement,” the group says in an open letter to G20 leaders.

“Many practices and policies of President Xi Jinping’s administration do not make China an accountable and responsible global partner today,” it continues.

Radio Free Asia reported that the United States of America-based human rights watchdog describes civic society in China as being suffocated and says that the persecution of dissidents, religious believers and ethnic minorities has been characterised by the government repeatedly violating both its own laws and international treaty obligations.

It says that local people report that in recent weeks, officials in Hangzhou have shut down businesses and industrial facilities across the scenic city, ordered increased security checks and packed large numbers people off on vacations in a bid to maintain stability.

The predominately Muslim Uyghur population is being carefully watched, while unofficial House Churches have been ordered not to hold gatherings in the run-up to the summit.

Radio Free Asia said that calls to the city’s largest Protestant Church, Chongyi, rang unanswered during office hours on August 15 and that it was told by one parishioner that the Church is now required to undergo security checks for all of its members.

“There are police standing guard outside it and it looks as if they are preventing people from going inside the church. There are a few police there and they all have security scanners, and they scan anyone who approaches them,” the person said.

“If that was me, I’d feel under a lot of psychological pressure, especially because living in a place where we don’t have freedom of religious belief already creates a hidden source of anxiety,” he continued.

It also reported a resident surnamed Zhu as saying that there is a heavy security presence, with police vehicles clustered in various locations on the outskirts of the city.

“It is a serious nuisance,” Zhu said. “There are more than 100 security checkpoints around the perimeter of Hangzhou and all vehicles coming into the city have to stop at them.”

He described the security checks as taking between 10 and 20 minutes per vehicle, as the inside of the fuel tank is checked, as well as the space behind the dashboard and door panelling.

A Hangzhou-based rights advocate, Zou Wei, said he and some others have been warned by police not to give any interviews to foreign media.

“A lot of people aren’t very willing to talk right now, because we have had warnings from police. Speaking as a Hangzhou resident, I hope that the Chinese leadership will lose this very backward-looking, feudal attitude they have, that sees the country’s leaders as overly important,” he said.

Radio Free Asia says that in early August, a court in the northern city of Tianjin handed down jail terms of up to 71 and 72 years to four human rights advocates and lawyers for subversion, in a series of widely criticised show trials that followed televised confessions, which claimed the defendants had come under undue influence from hostile forces outside of China.

A researcher from Amnesty International China, Patrick Poon, called for greater international pressure on China on human rights. “We would like to see leaders of all countries focus not just on economic issues. There is an international responsibility to bring up issues such as the rule of law and respect for international treaties with the Chinese government,” Poon said.

He added, “If China isn’t respecting the law... then it will be even harder to ensure that international business transactions are governed by the rule of law,” he concluded.

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