Kuzzat Altay, of the Uyghur (Muslim) minority, who fled to the US in 2005 at the age of 19

A major conference on religious freedom in China held at the European Parliament last month urged international institutions to wake up in the face of Communist Party brutality in that country. Speakers were united in their conviction that total war is being waged against religion in China and the international community has to urgently do something to stop it. The conference was convened by three members of the European Parliament.  

Never forget

Mr. Bob Fu, a Chinese American pastor as well as the founder (in 2002) and president of ChinaAid, an evangelical organization based in Midland, Texas, which provides legal aid to Christians in China, underlined that the first duty we all have is never to forget those who suffer. He said this, recalling the example of Romanian Christian minister Richard Wurmbrand (1909-2001), imprisoned and tortured by the Communist regime of this country, and founder of the international organization Voice of the Martyrs, which continue to this day to help persecuted Christians around the world.

Remembering that transformation through education camps in Xinjiang resemble Nazi concentration camps, and that for Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities the CCP is literally using the ill-famed Nazi’s expression “final solution” that envisioned the genocidal fate of the Jews, Mr. Fu introduced the second speaker, Mr. Kuzzat Altay, who was compelled to flee from China in 2005 at 19. An entrepreneur, founder and president of a firm in Fairfax, Virginia, whose name speaks for itself – Uyghur – he heard his father saying to him: “Son, they are taking me.” Then the 67-year-old man disappeared as if swallowed in the swamp of the Xinjiang camps, where according to the United Nations, 1,5 million people are detained, but, Altay said, Uyghurs think that this number is double. What young Kuzzat regrets most is that, if for the Nazi camps the world was able to see (horrible) pictures and videos, for camps in Xinjiang, images are so few (Bitter Winter has contributed to increasing their number) that people take this as an excuse to turn their face away. Almost in tears, Altay broached a controversial topic that the CCP is using to justify its spectacular repression and in conclusion he said in a loud voice: “I am not asking for independence, I’m asking to save lives.”

On-going persecution

Then Fr Bernardo Cervellera took the floor. The director of AsiaNews, the official press agency in four languages (English, Chinese, Italian, and Spanish) of the Roman Catholic Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), widely regarded as the leading Catholic expert on China, Fr. Cervellera said that after the Vatican-China Deal of 2018 nothing changed for persecuted Catholics.  In addition, immediately after the signing of the agreement, in many regions of China, the United Front and the Patriotic Association held rallies for priests and bishops explaining to them that ‘despite the agreement,’ they had to work for the implementation of an independent Church. The destruction of crosses, churches, indoctrination sessions, arrests continued just as before the agreement, if not worse.” It is then clear,’ Fr Cervellera added, “the government and the Chinese Communist Party are engaged in a real religious war to oust the God of Christians and replace Him with the god-Xi Jinping, which implies a total submission to the Communist Party.”

And this led directly to what I told the audience. After having illustrated what the magazine Bitter Winter is and does, I stated one of my deepest convictions: “The CCP considers God its very enemy. Why? Because God is a direct rival of the CCP. Believers are increasingly compelled to remove and destroy religious images to substitute them with portraits of Mao Zedong and Xi Jinping. They are jealous gods. […] God must become extinct. In the meantime, the Chinese government is making believers extinct.”

An ‘ethical tariff’

For this reason, I proposed imposing an “ethical tariff” on China, and called on the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission, Ms. Federica Mogherini, and the members of the European Parliament to make full use of their meetings with the Chinese authorities as well as the UN human rights mechanisms to convey their concerns to the Chinese government and urge it to comply with international standards regarding freedom of religion or belief.

Willy Fautré, co-founder and director of Human Rights Without Frontiers, a leading Brussels-based NGO, as well as Associate Editor of Bitter Winter, further developed the topic focusing on the persecution suffered by religions like Buddhism and Taoism. These can’t really be accused by the CCP of being tools of “Western colonization” but are persecuted altogether. He then dealt with the brutal repression of new religious movements like Falun Gong and The Church of Almighty God (CAG). By showing pictures of destructions and harassments reported by Bitter Winter, Mr. Fautré strengthened the gruesome reality of persecution through arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial killings, and human organ harvesting. He also spoke of the big difficulties that Chinese exiles persecuted for their faith have when they ask for asylum in many Western countries, a situation which is particularly dire for CAG members.

‘Not in my name’

He concluded: “When Islam is misused and instrumentalized by violent and terrorist groups for political purposes, law-abiding, tolerant and peace-loving ordinary Muslims and Muslim leaders shout loud and clear ‘Not on my name. Not on the name of Islam.’ Recently, atheist, agnostic, secular organizations, and individuals in Europe have taken sides with religious organizations to condemn blasphemy laws in Pakistan and to save the life of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death. They now have the opportunity to shout loud and clear about the persecution of all faiths in China ‘Not in my name. Not in the name of atheism.’”

As Mr. Josef Weidenholzer, an Austrian member of the European Parliament representing the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, said in his final remarks, “We can’t accept what is going on in China. We need more information, and we must be more outspoken.” The commitment is to have more conferences like this and to challenge public awareness in every lawful way. Silence and tepidity are the best allies of the CCP.

Marco Respinti is an Italian professional journalist, essayist, translator, and lecturer. He has contributed and contributes to several journals and magazine both in print and online, both in Italy and abroad. One of his books, published in 2008, concerns human rights in China. A Senior fellow at the Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal, a non-partisan, non-profit U.S. educational organization based in Mecosta, Michigan, he is also a founding member as well as Board member of the Center for European Renewal, a non-profit, non-partisan pan-European educational organization based in The Hague, The Netherlands. He serves as Director-in-Charge of The Journal of CESNUR and Bitter Winter.

* This article is slightly abridged from the original version, which can be read at Bitter Winter. Republished with permission.