Friday 19 July 2002

John Taylor
Representative of the International association for Religious Freedom at the UN (Geneva)

I hope your action in Bern goes well...I am sorry I cannot be with you.

Best wishes

In China tens of millions of men and women suffer because of religious intolerance andádiscrimination.

Even though the constitution stipulates that "Chinese citizens may enjoy freedom of religion" the measures adopted by the government strongly limit this freedom.á

A particularly violent campaign is currently being led in China against the members of Falun Gong, a peaceful, spiritual movement that helps its members through physical exercises to cultivate truthfulness, compassion and forbearance.

This movement, which was at first considered by the authorities as positive, has been brutally attacked by the government since 1999 because of its popularity. It has been reported that over 100,000 members of this movement have been arrested, that more than 20,000 have been sent without trial to labor camps, and that more than 400 have died subsequent to acts of violence and torture suffered during their arrest or detention.áá

The international community cannot remain silent in the face of these terrible violations of human rights against a numerous and peaceful minority. The Human Rights Commission should help the Chinese authorities to understand the necessity to respect the rights of religious minorities. Chinese Communists are fully free to be atheists, but as authorities they have the duty not merely to tolerate but to respect and ensure the respect of those who profess a religion, in order not to offend human dignity and disavow the principles of the United Nations Charter.

The famous Chinese thinker, Confucius, taught that political leaders should cultivate kindness to help people to live in a climate of peace and contentment.

Thank you, Mr Chairman.