CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Human rights remarks of Chinese vice president meet with scepticism

Hong Kong (UCAN): Catholic reaction in Hong Kong to the February remarks on China’s human rights record by vice president, Xi Jinping, was sceptical.

Xi’s official February 14 to 19 visit to the United States of America (US), took him to Washington DC; Muscatine, Iowa—where he stayed for two weeks in April 1985 as part of a Chinese delegation looking into farming technology; and finally to Los Angeles.

A spokesperson for the Hong Kong Justice and Peace Commission called Xi’s remarks empty and general, saying they were only for “building up an image for the outside world that the would-be state leader is open and willing to listen.”

Xi, who is likely to succeed the incumbent president, Hu Jintao, next year, acknowledged that there is room for improvement in China’s human rights, but implied that, given the historical and cultural backgrounds of the two countries, “It is only natural that we have some differences on the issue of human rights.”

He said that the tremendous achievements on human rights, since China’s reform and opening up to the world about 30 years ago, are obvious to all.

Xi told the press that China has many challenges to face in terms of improving democracy and human rights.

Rights groups reported on February 14 that another monk in Sichuan province had set himself on fire in the fifth such case this month. The Free Tibet group said the monk was an ethnic Tibetan apparently protesting against Chinese rule in the region.

The commission spokesperson said, “One has to be careful about the Chinese leaders’ definition of human rights when they speak on this issue. They usually refer to the right of having enough food and accommodation.”

She added, “Those are fundamental rights, but civil and political rights of the people are important.” 

“Over the past two years, from the sentences handed down to dissidents, who were mostly jailed for articles that they wrote, we can, in fact, see that human rights in China are moving backward,” she said.

“We continue to hope for changes after the new accession of the leadership,” she said.

The US government has also come under fire over Xi’s visit. Renee Xia of the China-based Chinese Human Rights Defenders, said that engaging in diplomatic niceties with the Chinese leader sends the wrong signal. 

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