On the morning of October 10th 2007, before the Europe-China human rights dialogue and the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) Seventeenth Conference, the European Parliament held a press conference on China's human rights and freedom of belief. The conference was hosted by Mr. Edward McMillan-Scott, Vice President of the European Parliament. Mr. Willy Fautre, Director of Human Rights Without Borders, Mr. Thomas Mann, senior Member of the European Parliament and President of the European Parliament Tibet Intergroup, and Mr. Istvan Szent-Ivanyi, Member of the European Parliament were invited to attend.
|Mr. Edward McMillan-Scott (left), Vice President of European Parliament, gives a speech|
The members of the European Parliament who took part in the conference emphasized that many groups in China suffer persecution even though there are only fourteen months left until the Olympic Games in Beijing. Mr. McMillan-Scott issued an open letter to Dr. Hans-Gert Poettering, President of the European Parliament. The letter discussed the CCP's persecution of religious freedom, especially the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners and those human rights lawyers who have helped practitioners. He specifically mentioned the cases of Falun Gong practitioners Cao Dong and Zhang Lianying and the recent persecution of lawyers Gao Zhisheng and Li Heping.
Mr. McMillan-Scott said that those cases mentioned above and all cases of more than three thousand practitioners who were tortured to death were submitted to the International Criminal Court. He emphasized that the CCP's persecution of religion and belief cannot continue.
Mr. McMillan-Scott attached two annexes - Amnesty International's urgent action on Gao Zhisheng, and his notes of a meeting with a CCP delegation. He expressed clearly that he cannot accept the CCP's persecution of Cao Dong, Zhang Lianying and Gao Zhisheng, and said that he would continuously exert pressure to get their release. The President of the European Parliament wrote to José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, and urged the European Commission to pay attention to the situation of Cao Dong, Zhang Lianying and Gao Zhisheng. In his reply, President Barroso expressed that the European Commission cannot accept the unfair treatment of Falun Gong practitioners and would continue to request the CCP regime to stop the persecution of Falun Gong. Based on a suggestion from the International Criminal Court, the European Parliament has submitted a formal document on the basis of the International Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
The Europe-China human rights dialogue will be held today (October 15th) in Beijing. Mr. McMillan-Scott requested the CCP to release the Falun Gong practitioners mentioned above and attorney Gao Zhisheng. The European Commission will raise these cases in the dialogue.
Following is the original letter from Mr. McMillan-Scott to the President of the European Parliament:
Dr Hans-Gert Poettering,
President, European Parliament
4 October 2007
Dear President, Dear Hans-Gert
RELIGIOUS REPRESSION BY CHINA
Further to our discussion on religious freedoms in China on 19 September in your Brussels office, I regret to inform you of subsequent developments affecting those with whom I had contact during my visit to Beijing in May 2006. As you know, all were arrested after my visit, harassed by the authorities and in two cases I have recent information that they are being tortured.
Since my meeting with you, the renowned Christian human rights lawyer, Mr Gao Zhisheng, was forcibly removed from his home on 22 September where he had been under house arrest since January, after his conviction last year for 'subversion'. His current whereabouts are unknown and there are fears for his safety (see Amnesty International Alert at Annex I).
On 26 September, I had a meeting in Strasbourg with a delegation from the National People's Congress of China (NPC) at which I handed over the letter that I sent to your office on 25 September stating my concerns over the inhumane treatment of the three individuals with whom I had contact in Beijing - Mr Cao Dong, Ms Zhang Lianying (both Falun Gong practitioners) and Mr Gao Zhisheng, who had advised her. I invited the delegation to seek their immediate freedom and in any event to advise you about their wellbeing, before the EU/China Human Rights Dialogue begins in Beijing on October 15.
I then received an email which informed me that on 29 September the lawyer of Mr Cao Dong, Mr Li Heping (also a Christian) had been seized by security forces and taken to woods where he was beaten up (see Amnesty International alert at Annex II). I can only assume that the treatment of Mr Li Heping is the result of my meeting with the NPC delegation in Strasbourg (see notes of the meeting at Annex III).
I am holding a Press conference on Wednesday 10 October at which religious freedoms in China will be the focus. I intend to release recent correspondence about individual cases, including this letter and annexes.
In addition, I have contacted the Secretariat of the International Criminal Court (ICC) regarding the above cases and some 3,000 religious prisoners who have died since 1999 under torture in China. The ICC has suggested that an official from the European Parliament's Human Rights Unit should be seconded to prepare a dossier for submission under the Genocide Convention.
I am sure you will agree that the repression of religious freedoms in China, whether of Buddhists, Christians, or Muslims, or in countries such as Burma or Sudan which fall under China's sphere of influence, cannot continue, and I look forward to further contacts with your office on this matter.
cc. Mr Jose Manuel Barroso - President of the European Commission
Ms Benita Ferrero-Waldner, European Commissioner for External Relations
Mr Javier Solana, High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy
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