12/10/2011, 00.00
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World Day for Human Rights, the worst ever for China

The year 2011 was an "annus horribilis" for the situation of freedom and democracy in the country. The regime has legalized illegal detention and continues to pursue relentlessly those who ask the government and the world for respect for human rights for Chinese citizens, including Catholics.
Beijing (AsiaNews) - Today the world is celebrating Human Rights Day, but China seems increasingly to worsen its own situation: activists jailed, extra-legal detentions, torture and threats to those working in the country to promote respect for human rights. This year also was marked by a spike in "enforced disappearances" and unlawful house arrests, new instruments the communist regime is using to silence its opponents. To this are added violations of religious freedom: the arrest of priests, the disappearance of bishops, controls over the rites and ordination of bishops, as well as violence against Protestants, Muslims and Buddhists.

According to the data of the Chinese Human Rights Defender - an NGO that monitors the human rights situation in China - there was a peak in repression above all during the "Jasmine Repression", the campaign waged from February to June, from Beijing, against dissidents, in an attempt to stop a possible "jasmine revolution" in China, similar to the ones that have erupted in Arab countries. In addition, it should be reported that there has been an attempt to introduce into China's Criminal Code a new law that makes enforced disappearances legal.

These disappearances became law on August 30, when the Chinese authorities published the amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure. Today it is legal to implement enforced disappearances. The authorities can close off a person in a secret place without informing the family or the outside world, to the point that you do not know if a person is gone forever. [See 19/09/2011, "With ‘enforced disappearances’, the Communist Party becomes a bunch of common criminals"]

Upon the law's approval, Teng Biao, Li Heping and Wan Yanhai disappeared, all engaged in demanding democracy and respect for human rights. Before them, only the lawyer and activist Gao Zhisheng had disappeared into thin air. During the Jasimine repression, instead, at least 2 dozen activists disappeared, among them Tang Jitian, Jiang Tianyong, Gu Chuan, Li Hai and Ai Weiwei. Some were held for weeks, others for months. All, upon release, spoke of physical and mental torture suffered while in detention.

These detentions, in addition to being illegal under international law, are also unfounded. Three activists - Chen Wei, Ni Yulan and Dong Jiqin - are still in the hands of the police, who continue to send them before a court which finds no evidence to accuse them. They are then taken off by agents, who lock them up them in unofficial prisons.

The forced disappearances of two Catholic bishops ought to be recalled as well: that of Msgr. James Su Zhimin of Baoding, 80, and Msgr. Cosmas Shi Enxiang of Yixian, 88 years old, possibly the oldest prisoners of conscience, isolated in an unfamiliar place for having refused to deny their relationship with the pope.

Renee Xia, international director of CHRD, said: "As we close a painful year of human rights violations, we want to encourage Chinese activists and ordinary citizens, who by their courage continue in the struggle for freedom. We demand the release of Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, and invite the world to condemn the hypocrisy of the Chinese government on human rights."
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