China protests US criticism of policies on religion

Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback. (File/AFP)
Updated 10 March 2019
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China protests US criticism of policies on religion

  • The foreign ministry’s office in Hong Kong said the speech Sam Brownback gave Friday “slandered” China’s religious policies
  • US officials and UN experts say China is believed to be holding 1 million Uighurs

HONG KONG: China has issued a protest over remarks the US ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom made criticizing Beijing’s polices toward Muslim and Tibetan Buddhist minorities and saying the country was “at war with faith.”
The foreign ministry’s office in Hong Kong said the speech Sam Brownback gave Friday “slandered” China’s religious policies. It said it had registered its dissatisfaction Saturday with the US Consulate in the semi-autonomous Chinese region, where the speech was given.
China’s constitution and laws protect freedom of religion and critics should “cease their slander of China’s policies on religion and the situation with freedom of faith and cease using religious issues to interfere in China’s internal affairs,” the office said in a statement.
US officials and UN experts say China is believed to be holding 1 million Uighurs, Muslims and members of other majority Muslim ethnic groups in political education camps in Xinjiang. The US and other governments have criticized the crackdown.
The Chinese government says those camps are vocational training centers designed to rid the region of extremism.
Brownback said President Donald Trump’s administration is “deeply concerned and considered it a deliberate attempt by Beijing to redefine and control these Muslim minority groups, (their) identity, culture and faith.”
He urged Beijing to grant free access to the camps to investigate claims of abuse of inmates.
More generally, Brownback said, China is “at war with faith.”
“It’s a war they will not win,” he said. “The Chinese Communist Party must hear the cry of its people for religious freedom.”
Brownback was expected to meet local religious leaders and religious studies students and instructors while in Hong Kong. The territory enjoys freedom of speech and religion far beyond that in mainland China, where the officially atheist government keeps tight control over any potential challenges to its authority.
Brownback, the former governor of Kansas, was due to travel to Taiwan for a regional meeting on religious freedom Monday.
In his speech, the Catholic conservative called on China to release Wang Yi and John Cao Sanqiang, detained pastors in the “underground” church that operates independently of official government agencies.


Top French court rejects Syria-based French militants’ repatriation demands

Updated 23 April 2019
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Top French court rejects Syria-based French militants’ repatriation demands

  • Western nations have been wrestling with how to handle suspected militants

PARIS: France’s top administrative court on Tuesday rejected demands by Syria-based French women to be repatriated back to France, arguing that a judge could not rule on the issue given it involved negotiations with foreign authorities.
“The Council of State (Conseil d’Etat) rejects the demands for repatriation made by French nationals and for their children, currently in Syria,” said the court in a statement.
Western nations have been wrestling with how to handle suspected militants and their families seeking to return from combat zones in Iraq and Syria, as well as those in detention.
In February, France said it would not for now act on US President Donald Trump’s call for European allies to repatriate hundreds of Islamic State fighters from Syria, adding it would take back militants on a “case-by-case” basis.