[Willy Fautre, director of Human Rights Without Frontiers]: “We identified 2 main groups of countries, that don't abide by the international standards of the United Nations. First, the Muslim countries, because they criminalize normal activities related to freedom of religion. Then communist and former communist countries that put in place systems to control all religious groups.”
The report lists 27 countries of particular concern. China was named the third top violator of the freedom of religious association, just behind North Korea and Eritrea. The assessment is based events in 2012.
[Willy Fautre, director of Human Rights Without Frontiers]: “All the religious associations are under control of state agencies. If they are not associated with a state agency, they are considered in an illegal situation and they are heavily persecuted.”
The report’s author and members of the European Parliament both highlighted certain persecuted groups in China.
[Tunne Kelam, Member of the European Parliament]: “We are especially worried of course about the continuation of massive repressions against Falun Gong practitioners. It was mentioned in the report that Falun Gong since 1999 has been most massively and cruelly persecuted and there have been hundreds of thousands of people just imprisoned for their practices.”
Vice-President of the European Parliament, Laszlo Surjan, recognizes the same pattern of suppression by the Communist Party as what he witnessed in Hungary.
[Laszlo Surjan, Vice-President of the European Parliament]: “These totalitarian systems are afraid of any autonomy. A religious body has an autonomous way of thinking. They have their own teaching, own behavior. They do not obey everything.”
The report marks the first international assessment that provides a list of people jailed for their beliefs in 18 countries worldwide.
[Willy Fautre, director of Human Rights Without Frontiers]: “Concerning China, it's a fact that there has been little progress in the last few years in matters of freedom of religion. And it should be said that we have a list of prisoners that can be used as a tool by the EU and by NGOs to ask for their release.”
The European Union will soon adopt the Guidelines on Freedom of Religion or Belief, which will in turn guide its policy towards other countries. The report on Tuesday will facilitate advocacy by NGOs and the EU’s external human rights dialogue.