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Human Rights Issues as Top Agenda at the EU-China Summit

On the eve of the European Union- China Summit, EU pinpoints Beijing’s continued violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms like religious freedom in the report on EU-China relations.
( [email protected] ) Sep 08, 2006 12:30 PM EDT

On the eve of the European Union- China Summit, EU pinpoints Beijing’s continued violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms like religious freedom in the report on EU-China relations.

The Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is due to meet with the 351-member European Parliament at Helsinki this Saturday. The EU-China relations report, according to the Italy-based Catholic news agency AsiaNews, reaffirms the importance of the dialogue between Brussels and Beijing and singles out the issues that should govern future relations. Fundamental freedoms, human rights, minority protection and the right of the Catholic Church to appoint its own bishops are on the top of the agenda.

China is criticized for persecuting and detaining members of Protestant and Catholic groups which do not belong to the official Church. Such treatment does not comply with the Constitution of China which claims to guarantee all citizens freedom of religion. The report has also recognized that today "Christians attending ‘illegal’ places of worship (Protestant house-churches and underground Catholic groups) are more numerous than those worshipping at ‘patriotic’ (official) churches."

The report has particularly addressed the emerging Vatican-China dialogue, which is the first time ever for the European lawmakers, according to AsiaNews. Pope Benedict XVI has repeatedly signaled the Vatican’s intention to rebuild the diplomatic dialogue with China that was broken since the Communist Party took over in 1949. Currently, Catholics churches are prohibited to recognize the pope’s authority and the bishops are appointed by the government.

AsiaNews reported that the EU blamed China for violating religious freedom when the authorities made unlawfully filled vacancies in some Episcopal sees in the last four months. This has threatened the Vatican’s motive in engaging in the dialogue.

In addition, EU complained about China’s ongoing campaign against a free and open internet. Internet censorship in China has drawn international attention, numerous websites related to religions, democracy or other sensitive topics are being blocked from the internet users. One of the sites is AsiaNews- a Catholic-based Vatican-affiliated news service.

MEPs Antonio Tajani and Mario Mauro told the AsiaNews: "The Belder report confirms once more the importance of China’s role, but it also defends the fundamental values of European Christian Democratic ideas, asserting the need for proper rules both the EU and China must respect if they wish to build a constructive bilateral relationship."

After attending the EU-China Summit, the Chinese Premier will be presented at the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) of European Union and Asian leaders in Helsinki on Sept. 10-11. He will also fly to Berlin to have talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel next week.