06/13/2012, 00.00
CHINA
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Beijing's plans to defend religious freedom and human rights are but "empty words"

China makes public its second National Human Rights Action Plan, which acknowledges that the country has a "long way to go before fully allowing people to enjoy human rights." Freedom of religion and expression are formally protected, but "as usual," these are "empty and meaningless words." The authorities "spend time and money only to control religions, not help them."

Beijing (AsiaNews) - China formally announced its second National Human Rights Action Plan for the years 2012-2015, saying it has a "long way to go before fully allowing people to enjoy human rights." The new plan includes a set of guidelines, "empty words as usual," an expert told AsiaNews. "They are very good on paper but they show their real nature in their deeds."

The plan provides dissidents, activists and believers from all religions a formal basis to file complaints against local Communist officials. The new version follows that of 2009, which did not improve substantially the situation in terms of human and religious rights.

Various experts believe that it is unrealistic to expect the second edition to bring any change to the country or Tibet, where the rights of the local population are systematically violated.

Tibet is indeed a clear example of the problem. Since 2008, when clashes broke out in Lhasa between residents and Communist authorities, the Tibetan government has proceeded to arrest about 7,000 political activists. At present, nothing is known about them, except that a few are released from time to time.

According to the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, 2009 has gone down as the worst year in Tibet's recent history. It is also the year when the first Action Plan was issued.

Under the new plan, the state plans to help religions, guarantee freedom of expression and worship, and even provide funding for places of worship destroyed by natural disasters or in ruin as long as they are Muslim Chinese places and not Uygur, or Buddhist sites.

"All this is utter nonsense," said Dr Anthony Lam Sui-ky, a researcher at the Holy Spirit Study Centre of the Diocese of Hong Kong.

"On paper, Chinese leaders are always good, but in reality local governments do as they please," the great expert on the Church in China told AsiaNews.

"It matters not what they write in official documents. People don't have access to religious freedom or human rights," he lamented.

"In some areas, like Guangdong in the rich south, the government has helped some churches with some money for renovation," Lam said in relation to public funding for religions. However, "The truth is that the government wants to control the Church and is spending a lot of money on imposing security constraints and controls on the clergy and believers."

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