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Week of February 1, 2002

Week of February 1, 2002

The U.S. and China This Week

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U.S.-CHINA RELATIONS:China Criticizes Bush Reference to `Axis of Evil'

SUMMARY:(1/31) - China criticized U.S. President George W. Bush's reference to Iran, Iraq and North Korea as an "axis of evil" in his State of the Union address January 29. "The Chinese side does not advocate using this kind of language in international relations," Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan told a news conference. If countries are not treated equally, he said it would harm efforts to solve problems and "would not be conducive to world and regional peace and stability."

Since defeating the Taliban forces in Afghanistan, American attention in the war against international terrorism has focused on countries the United States says export terrorism while also attempting to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Bush pledged to stop "terrorists and regimes who seek chemical, biological or nuclear weapons from threatening the United States and the world." Washington has alleged that Iraq and North Korea have violated the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and that they have impeded monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

President Bush has warned Iraqi President Saddam Hussein there will be repercussions if Hussein does not let United Nations arms inspectors back into Baghdad. The inspectors left in 1998 after complaining that they were being blocked from carrying out their duties to check whether Iraq was developing chemical and biological weapons. Although there was cooperation between America and Iran in the war against the Taliban, the Bush administration has been angered at what it feels is Iranian obstruction of the formation of a new Afghan regime and by an Iranian arms shipment to the Palestinian Authority that was confiscated by Israel. Prior to Bush's statement, Washington had been following a policy of seeking increased dialogue with North Korea.

Although Kong rebuked Bush for the "axis" comment, he praised a different part of Bush's speech calling for increased cooperation with China. "We believe that the exchanges of cooperation between our two countries is in the interest of the two countries as well as for world peace and stability," he said.


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DOMESTIC:Hong Kong Bible Smuggler Jailed For Two Years

SUMMARY:  (1/28; 1/29; 1/30) - A Hong Kong man was sentenced to two years in jail January 28 for smuggling annotated Bibles into mainland China to the "Shouters," a banned Christian group. According to a family friend of Li Guangqiang, Li and two mainland Chinese men were found guilty by the Fuqing court in southern Fujian province of "illegal business operations," apparently for not having an import license. As the New Testament Recovery Version of the Bible Li brought in is legal in China, it appears it was the annotations and revisions by the Shouters' leader, Li Changshu, that Beijing found troubling. Foreign Ministry spokesman Sun Yuxi commented two weeks ago, "The Bibles were a pretext for smuggling a large amount of cult publications."

Evangelical preaching is outlawed in China. The prosecution reduced the charge against the 38-year-old Li from one that could have resulted in the death penalty to one that brought with it a maximum of five years in jail. The family friend said the two other men received jail terms of three years, and that all three men were fined 150,000 yuan each ($18,100).

Li and his associates were indicted in early January after being caught bringing 33,000 Bibles to the "Shouters," a sect banned in 1983, from autonomous Hong Kong. A spokesman for U.S. President George Bush said the president was personally interested in Li's case and called on Beijing to respect international standards for religious freedom. Last week, in a speech in Hong Kong, U.S. Ambassador to China Clark Randt called on China to "abide by the international norms of behavior" with regard to Li's case. The family friend said
Li will appeal his conviction and also vie for medical parole. The friend said Li had been having respiratory problems since being detained.

"Washington and U.S. pressure groups won't see it as a concession but a violation of religious rights and they won't be placated," Lau Siu-kai of the Chinese University said of the verdict. "The U.S. will only be satisfied if Beijing lets him go. If not, it will be an irritant in bilateral relations." U.S. officials in Beijing, who are thought to be holding talks with the Chinese over Li's case, declined to comment.

In a separate case, two "Shouters" leaders in Anhui province were charged with "using an evil cult to damage a law-based society" on January 25, a Hong Kong-based human rights group maintained. That was the charge Li and his comrades faced initially, which can result in the death penalty. The two are accused of trying to attract more members and of recruiting 30 university and high school students last year, said the Information Centre for Human Rights & Democracy. Both have been held since August 2001.

China forbids religious activity outside state-sanctioned groups, though millions belong to other faiths clandestinely. "Religious freedom is so different in China. Beijing must raise its level of tolerance to match that of international standards," said Rose Wu of the Hong Kong Christian Institute


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INTERNATIONAL: Bible Smuggling Case Worries Hong Kong Christian Groups

SUMMARY:   (1/30) - The prison sentence for a Hong Kong man given out for smuggling annotated Bibles into mainland China has put Hong Kong's Christian groups on edge. Since religious interest increased in China during the 1980s, autonomous Hong Kong's minority Christians have brought goods and money to poorer affiliates in mainland China, without much interference by the Chinese government. But with the jailing of Li Guangqiang for two years, Hong Kong's Christians worry that bringing goods across the border could be dangerous. Two mainland colleagues of Li's were sentenced to three years in jail.

China outlaws religious activities not specifically approved by the government, but millions of people worship clandestinely and are tolerated as long as they keep a low profile. Richard Boucher, a spokesman for the State Department, declared, "We are troubled that people have been arrested for making religious materials available to Christians in China and we would expect China to live up to international standards on freedom of religious expression and freedom of conscience." He continued, "We have registered concerns and would continue to register our concerns with Chinese authorities in both Washington and Beijing throughout this period since the initial reports."

Duan Qiming, a senior member of the Anti-Cult Association, which usually backs the government, said China had banned 15 "cults" because they were using religion as a cover. The government thought the leader of the group receiving Bibles from Li Guangquing, the Shouters, was in fact politically motivated. Duan said the annotations and revisions by Li Changshu were criminal. "The normal, internationally recognized versions of the Bible will not meet with any problems, as long as you keep with customs regulations," he said. "These are two separate issues." Duan said while Bibles can be transported into China for individual use, large numbers must be declared.

Anthony Lam of the Holy Spirit Study Centre in Hong Kong expressed dismay at Li's imprisonment. "This should not happen. To send him to jail for smuggling Bibles is too much. It's a restriction on normal activities," Lam said. He also stated to Reuters, "This is very dangerous. They can easily designate any Protestant or Catholic group as evil cults in the future and do anything they wish to them."


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Uighurs Reject Ties to bin Laden, Terrorist Label

SUMMARY: (1/30) - Muslim Turkic-speaking Uighurs vying to secede the northwestern Xinjiang province from the rest of China have rejected the Chinese government's claim that they are terrorists. An overseas Uighur group also refuted China's claim that Uighur militants have ties to Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda terrorist network. The East Turkestan National Congress (ETNC), which represents overseas Uighurs, acknowledged the independence movement in Xinjiang. "But it is not a terrorist movement as China would like the world to believe," said the group.

The statements were in response to a report released by the Chinese government January 21 that blamed Uighur militants for more than 200 incidents between 1990 and 2001 in Xinjiang that took the lives of 162 people. The report claimed more than 100 Uighurs were training with the Taliban in Afghanistan before its fall from power late last year. The ETNC says any Uighurs fighting with the Taliban were acting independently. The ETNC also denied that pro-independence leader Hasan Mahsum was supported and directed by bin Laden.

The ETNC also charged the Chinese government with killing 200,000 Uighurs since the Communist Party came to power in 1949. "They are the colonialists, not the East Turkestan people whose land was occupied and who are deprived of the right to call their own homeland in their own language," the ETNC said.

China has supported the U.S. war on international terrorism. The United States has not linked Uighur militants to that effort. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson has said that China should not use the war on terrorism as an excuse to violate civil liberties and crack down on ethnic minorities, especially in Xinjiang province

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The U.S. and China This Week
The U.S. and China This Week

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