by Massimo Introvigne — “Dans l’ombre du covid, la tentation sectaire”: “In the shadow of the COVID, the cults’ temptation.” This was the main title in the front page of the Lausanne daily Le Temps for March 26, reporting on interrogations filed by politicians of different parties to the Grand Council of the Canton of Vaud and the City Council of Lausanne. The politicians quoted recent documents produced by the French governmental anti-cult agency MIVILUDES, that we reviewed and criticized in Bitter Winter. They asked whether the same “cultic deviances” (dérives sectaires) were not at work, taking advantage of the COVID-19 crisis, in the Canton of Vaud.
Italian Parliamentarians and civil societies discuss human rights abuse and environmental degradation by China in Tibet and Xinjiang
Geneva: The Italia-Tibet Association in collaboration with Bitter Winter – an online magazine on religious liberty and human rights in China, the Heritage of Tibet and AREF International organized a virtual event with Italian parliamentarians to discuss the human rights abuse and environmental degradation by China in Tibet and Xinjiang. The event was held on 29 March 2021 from 6 pm to 8 pm local time and was moderated by Claudio Cardelli, President of the Italia-Tibet Association.
by Massimo Introvigne — Until one month ago, articles on the draft French law against “separatism,” rechristened “Law for the respect of Republican principles,” were being published by mainline international media almost daily. With some colleagues, I had published a first “White Paper” emphasizing problems for religious liberty in the original text, and a second one suggesting that the law may offer a positive opportunity to go beyond the restrictive definition of “religion” prevailing in French case law. Eventually, the objections by French and international scholars, after the French State Council had made similar remarks, were heard by the government, which amended the text by eliminating the most controversial provisions.
by Marco Respinti — For once, we agree with the Global Times, the daily voice of the CCP in English. The decision taken on Monday, March 22, 2021 by the European Union Council (after a meeting of the foreign ministers of the European Union), to sanction Chinese officers guilty of human rights violation hit “a heavy blow to bilateral relations between the two sides.” On Monday, the European Union imposed “restrictive measures on eleven individuals and four entities” (the Global Times wrongly mentioned 10 individuals) “responsible for serious human rights violations and abuses in various countries around the world.” Among the indicted countries, the Peoples’ Republic of China looms large with four persons and one entity found guilty of “large-scale arbitrary detentions of, in particular, Uyghurs in Xinjiang.”
Reacting to news that Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has signed a bill to abolish the death penalty in the Commonwealth, Kristina Roth, Senior Advocate for Criminal Justice Programs at Amnesty International USA, released the following statement:
“We welcome this news. The death penalty is irreversible, it is ineffective, and it does not deter crime. The way the death penalty is carried out is painful, violent, and inhumane, and it is targeted in this country disproportionately against communities of color. The use of the death penalty as a punishment is outdated, fundamentally broken and must end once and for all.
The Supreme Court: the principle applies even if the patient's life is at risk.
by Steno Sari — A sensational ruling by the Court of Cassation, which puts to rest the doubts and fears of medical practitioners regarding Jehovah's Witnesses' dissent to blood transfusions. Judgment 29469/2020 was discussed on 19 March 2020 in a webinar held at the Risk Management Forum, organised by the Società Italiana Medico Giuridica (Italian Medical and Legal Society). The case dates back to 2004 and concerns a woman giving birth who had refused blood transfusions both verbally and in writing.
In the end, economic interests prevailed over human rights. The genocide amendment to the British Trade Bill, strongly advocated by Lord Alton who had proposed it, foundered, albeit slightly, under the blows of the commercial interests of Her Majesty's Government. Apparently, the "vile money" has triumphed once again. A few minutes before the debate on the Trade Bill, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced the UK's decision to join 29 other states in sanctioning Chinese officials for complicity in atrocities against the Uighur population in Xinjiang. To some, however, it appeared to be an attempt, if not an actual signal, to channel the vote on the amendment toward a favorable outcome for the government.
by Marco Respinti — In the last few weeks, things seem to have accelerated and concerns about all the different crimes committed by the Chinese regime are growing across the world. On March 10, 2021, the 117th US Congress in Washington, D.C., acted to confront one of the most heinous deeds ordered by the CCP against its own citizens, i.e. organ harvesting, which targets especially Falun Gong practitioners, but also others, chiefly Uyghurs and other Turkic people in Xinjiang, which its non-Han inhabitants call East Turkestan, and believers of The Church of Almighty God.
by Massimo Introvigne — Is life imprisonment an adequate punishment in Pakistan for sending an SMS critical of Prophet Muhammad? No, said last week the Lahore High Court: only the death sentence would do. Sajjad Masih Gill is a 35-year Seventh-day Adventist from the district of Pakpatan, in the province of Punjab. In 2011, he was accused of having sent blasphemous SMS defaming Prophet Muhammad and arrested. The police did not find any evidence in his cell phone that the SMS had in fact been sent, but said it had been able to trace the messages back to his phone number through a cellphone tower. He and his lawyers maintained he had simply been framed as part of a crackdown on the Adventist community.
by Halya Coynash — A Russian-controlled court in Simferopol has placed 42-year-old Ukrainian Taras Kuzio under house arrest following mass armed searches of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ homes in occupied Yalta. The occupation regime has slightly varied the charge this time, although Kuzio is facing the same persecution as other believers for practising his faith. The hearing on 12 March at the ‘Kievsky District Court’ took place behind closed doors, and with a lawyer appointed by the ‘investigators’.
by Massimo Introvigne — The decision rendered on March 16, 2021 by the Court of Ghent in Belgium, which states that suggesting that current members of a religious organization do not associate with ex-members who have been disfellowshipped or have left the organization amounts to discrimination and incitement to hatred, is not dangerous for the religious liberty of Jehovah’s Witnesses only. It represents a danger for all religions, not only because of the intrusion into the sphere of autonomy of a religious body (discussed in the second article of this series), but also because the practice of “shunning” so-called “apostate” ex-members (a technical term used by sociologists without any negative implication) is hardly unique to the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Speech by CAP LC (Coordination des Associations et des Partiuliers pur la Liberté the Conscience) at the 46th Meeting of the Human Right Council on religious discrimination perpetrated by the German government.
Dear Madame Présidente, In Germany, the State continues to discriminate minority religions by condoning the use of the infamous « sect filters » since decades. German government bodies and officials continue with practices which are far reaching and wide-spread with no professionals in Bavaria able to participate in a government bid, without signing a sect filter.
Speech by CAP LC (Coordination des Associations et des Partiuliers pur la Liberté the Conscience) at the 46th Meeting of the Human Right Council on religious discrimination instigated by a French government body and by the controversial FECRIS.
Mister President, We would like to draw your attention to a part of the debate generated by the fight against terrorism and separatism in France. Civil society is concerned about the direction taken in debates on separatism with regards to individual liberties and religious freedom.
by Massimo Introvigne — Imagine if Cheng Quanguo, the CCP Secretary in Xinjiang who is under sanctions in the United States for his crimes against humanity, appeared in the West claiming he is persecuted by the Uyghurs and their friends in the democratic world, and hailing his concentration camps as model practices other countries should imitate. Or, in the 1930s, if Heinrich Himmler and Joseph Goebbels had lectured at a conference in Paris introducing themselves as victims of a persecution by the Jews, their American supporters, and the scholars who had written against Nazi anti-Semitism. Comedians who would propose this as a satirical show would be accused of bad taste.
by Ruth Ingram — The Chinese government is running a concerted campaign to malign, discredit and terrorize Uyghurs who have lost touch with loved ones, in an attempt to claim the moral high ground in its propaganda war on terror. A text message out of the blue from a relative begging them to return, hounding calls from officials, or as in Aziz Isa Elkun’s case, a Chinese news feature with his elderly mother, castigating him for being a bad son, strike terror in the hearts of traumatized exiles, leaving them in a no man’s land of grief and longing.
by Alessandro Amicarelli — Cuban media consistently denounce Islamophobia in the United States and Europe, and claim that Islam is welcome in the island. Indeed, there have been some improvements in recent years, that observers connect with Cuba’s international relations with countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, which advocate for the rights of local Muslims. Students from Muslim countries were never harassed for quietly practicing their religion, but the situation was different for Cuban converts. In 2015, a scholar reported that Cuba was home to 10,000 Muslims, of which 3,000 were native Cubans who had found in Islam an alternative to the Marxist atheistic education they had received.
by Tashi Samdup — Tibetans all over the world commemorate the Tibetan Uprising Day on March 10 every year, to remember the 1959 Tibetan uprising against the invasion by the People's Republic of China. From that day, many Tibetans, including His Holiness the Dalai Lama, had to find refuge in India. In Dharamshala, India, a government in exile, called Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), was founded on April 28, 1959.
by Leila Adilzhan — It is still cold in Almaty, Kazakhstan, but this did not deter women who have their loved ones detained in Xinjiang from taking to the streets and demonstrate in front of the Chinese consulate. On March 8, Women's Day, we pay our respects to the world's women. But these Kazakh mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters got no respect from the CCP. Ethnic Kazakhs continue, together with Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims, to be detained in Xinjiang, either in the dreaded transformation through education camps or in prisons.
Time is up. We, the Coalition to End Forced Labour in the Uyghur Region, call on all companies to urgently end all links to Uyghur forced labour. The government of China is perpetrating mass human rights abuses against Uyghur and other Turkic and Muslim people in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (Uyghur Region) in Western China. These abuses include mass surveillance, arbitrary detention, rape, torture, political “re-education,” forced sterilisations, and forced labour.
As members of Iraqi civil society and international NGOs, we welcome the apostolic visit by His Holiness Pope Francis to Iraq in March 2021. At this critical moment in the country’s history, the visit represents an important opportunity to promote peace and tolerance by bringing together ethno-religious communities and inspiring collective action to prevent further atrocities of the kind that has caused so much suffering for generations.