Bishop of Coventry asks about China – human rights and freedom of religion or belief

On 7th December 2017 the Bishop of Coventry, Rt Revd Christopher Cocksworth, received written answers to four questions on human rights and freedom of religion or belief in China:

The Lord Bishop of Coventry:

(i) To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the revisions to the regulations on religious affairs in China, and of their potential impact on freedom of religion or belief in that country.

(ii) To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the government of China about the disappearance and current situation of Chinese lawyer Gao Zhiseng, who went missing in August.

(iii) To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the government of China concerning restrictions on freedom of religion or belief for Tibetan Buddhists in China, including the detention of religious leaders and the demolition of places of worship.

(iv)  To ask Her Majesty’s Government what information they hold about the demolition of religious sites and buildings in China, including Tibetan Buddhist institutions and Christian churches in the past two years.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:

(i)  We remain concerned about restrictions on freedom of religion or belief in China and are concerned that new draft guidelines on religion in China may restrict lawful and peaceful observance of religion.

We raised these matters directly with the Chinese authorities at the UK-China Human Rights Dialogue in Beijing on 27 June. We also issued an item IV statement at the 35th UN Human Rights Council in June reiterating our concerns.

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(ii) We are deeply concerned about the case of Gao Zhisheng, particularly after his reported disappearance in August. We are continuing to work with international partners and others to seek further information about his whereabouts and his condition and to highlight our concerns about his case.

We raised Mr Gao’s case with the Chinese authorities in a list of ‘cases of concern’ ahead of the UK/China Human Rights Dialogue in Beijing in June 2017.

FCO officials met Gao Zhisheng’s daughter, Grace Gao, and representatives of a UK NGO on 16 October to discuss his case and obtain more information.

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(iii) We pay close attention to the human rights position including restrictions on religion or belief, and the wider political situation in Tibet.

We set out our human rights concerns about China, and specifically the Tibet Autonomous Region, in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office annual report on Human Rights and Democracy, which was issued on 20 July 2017 (available on gov.uk).

We raised these concerns about Tibet, a number of individual cases of concern, and our concerns about demolitions of the Larung Gar monasteries at the latest round of the UK/China Human Rights Dialogue which took place in Beijing on 27 June 2017. We also made an item IV statement at the UN’s Human Rights Council in Geneva in June 2017 where we reiterated our concerns over restrictions on civil and political freedoms, particularly minority rights, and freedom of religion in China.

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(iv) We are concerned by reports of the closure or demolition of churches and monasteries, and that individuals are being harassed or detained for their beliefs across China.

We routinely obtain information and updates from a wide range of sources and use these to help build a credible picture of the extent of the situation.

We consistently urge China to respect all rights across the People’s Republic of China, including in Tibet, in line with both its own constitution and the international frameworks to which it is a party.

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