China defends detention of Muslims in Xinjiang

November 18, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Urumqi, China, Nov 18, 2019 / 05:01 pm (CNA).- The Chinese government is defending its policy of mass detention and re-education of Muslims in the country’s northwest as an appropriate measure against terrorism, following a New York Times report that showed the direct involvement of senior government officials in ordering the policy.

Geng Shuang, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, criticized the newspaper’s report Nov. 18, saying it smeared China’s efforts against extremism, but not disputing the authenticity of the leaked documents, The Times reported Monday.

The Xinjiang government said the earlier Times article was “completely fabricated by hostile forces at home and abroad … America’s New York Times has again fabricated and concocted fake news about Xinjiang. This is nothing more than getting up to its old tricks, and is completely unworthy of refutation. This despicable conduct will surely be met with the contempt of wiser minds in the international community.”

The Times reports that Chinese President Xi Jinping laid the groundwork for the development of the mass detentions in a series of private speeches to officials in 2014 in which he called for “absolutely no mercy” toward ‘terrorists’.

In Urumqi on April 30, 2014, Xi said that “the psychological impact of extremist religious thought on people must never be underestimated. People who are captured by religious extremism — male or female, old or young — have their consciences destroyed, lose their humanity and murder without blinking an eye.”

In another speech in Xinjiang, Xi stated: “There must be effective educational remolding and transformation of criminals … even after these people are released, their education and transformation must continue.”

According to the Times, 403 pages of documents, nearly half of which were speeches from Xi and other leaders, were leaked to it “by a member of the Chinese political establishment who … expressed hope that their disclosure would prevent party leaders, including Mr. Xi, from escaping culpability for the mass detentions.”

Among the documents, the Times said, are a model script for officials encountering returning university students who ask what has happened to their disappeared family members.

In the script from officials in Turpan, 120 miles southeast of Urumqi, the students were to be told that if their family members “don’t undergo study and training, they’ll never thoroughly and fully understand the dangers of religious extremism … No matter what age, anyone who has been infected by religious extremism must undergo study.”

The students would be told to “treasure this chance for free education that the party and government has provided to thoroughly eradicate erroneous thinking, and also learn Chinese and job skills,” which “offers a great foundation for a happy life for your family.”

If the students asked if their relatives had committed any crime, they were to be told that while they hadn’t, “it is just that their thinking has been infected by unhealthy thoughts … freedom is only possible when this ‘virus’ in their thinking is eradicated and they are in good health.”

The documents also detail the government’s reaction to officials deemed to be inadequately zealous in the repression of the Uighurs.

Wang Yongzhi was appointed to run Yarkant county, 830 miles southwest of Urumqi, in 2014. Wang had detention facilities built which housed 20,000 people, but expressed misgivings about the policy, and released some 7,000 internees. After that, he was “detained, stripped of power and prosecuted” in 2017, according to the Times.

Xinjiang has experienced some terrorist attacks, including a massive knife attack at a train station in 2014 in which 31 people were killed and 141 wounded, but the Chinese government has repressed reports about the extent of the attacks, the Times reports.

The main victims of the Chinese crackdown on Muslims in the region are an ethnic group called the Uighurs. An estimated 1 million Uighurs have been detained in re-education camps in Xinjiang in the past three years, as part of a widespread effort by the government to “Sinicize” religion in the country.

Inside the camps they are reportedly subjected to forced labor, torture, and political indoctrination. Outside the camps, Uighurs are monitored by pervasive police forces and facial recognition technology.

The Chinese government at one time denied the camps even existed, but has since shifted to defending its actions as a reasonable response to a national security threat.

Government officials from the region said in July that the area’s re-education camps for Muslims have been successful, with most of those held having been reintegrated into Chinese society.

Uighurs can be arrested and detained under vague anti-terrorism laws. Violence in the region escalated in the 1990s and again in 2008.

During a Sept. 23 UN event on religious freedom, US vice president Mike Pence mentioned that “the Communist Party in China has arrested Christian pastors, banned the sale of Bibles, demolished churches, and imprisoned more than a million Uighurs in the Muslim population,” and a fact sheet issued by the White House said the administration “is deeply concerned” for the interned Uighurs.

And the US State Department hosted a panel on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly Sept. 24 to draw attention to the “human rights crisis in Xinjiang,” where partipants heard first-hand accounts of repression of Muslim groups in Xinjiang.

John Sullivan, deputy secretary of state, said at the panel that “The UN must seek the immediate, unhindered, and unmonitored access to Xinjiang for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The United Nations, including its member states, have a responsibility to stand up for the human rights of people everywhere, including Muslims in Xinjiang. We urge the UN to investigate and closely monitor China’s rights abuses, including the repression of religious freedom and belief.”

“We cannot be the only guardians of the truth nor the only members of the international community to call out China and demand that they stop,” Sullivan stated.

Pakistan is among the few Muslim-majority countries to have warned against the escalating persecution of the Uighurs.

The US Commerce Department in October added 28 Chinese organizations to a blacklist barring them from buying products from US companies, saying they cooperate in the detention and repression of the Uighurs.


Washington DC drops bill to legalize sex trade

November 18, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Washington D.C., Nov 18, 2019 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- A bill to legalize the buying and selling of sex in Washington, DC, will not move forward after widespread opposition and concern that the bill lacked enough support of the city council to be passed.&nbs… […]

Pope, Abu Dhabi crown prince make joint commitment to improving health of the poor

November 18, 2019 CNA Daily News 1

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Nov 18, 2019 / 01:57 pm (CNA).- In a joint statement signed Monday, Pope Francis and Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, committed to helping improve the health of those who live in impoverished communities.

The statement was signed in Abu Dhabi on their behalf Nov. 18 by Archbishop Francisco Padilla, apostolic nuncio to the United Arab Emirates, and Mohamed Mubarak Al Mazrouei, the crown prince’s undersecretary.

“We reaffirm our mutual cooperation towards the improvement of the health and wellbeing of communities in need,” they said. “This cooperation stems from a belief that every person, no matter their background, has the right to live a dignified and healthy life.”

The statement was made on the occasion of the Reaching the Last Mile forum held in Abu Dhabi, an initiative of Al Nahyan’s that works to eradicate preventable diseases like polio, malaria, and guinea worm disease from poor communities.

Such preventable diseases often spread as a result of “the poverty and social vulnerability of the most marginalized members of society,” the statement noted.

The pope and the crown prince called for renewed efforts on the parts of states to improve the health and medical resources available to all of their citizens, including the most marginalized. They also called on the international community to commit to improving the health and wellbeing of vulnerable populations throughout the world.

“One such area of focus is the fight to end Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), which affect more than 1.5 billion of the world’s population,” they said.

According to the World Health Organization, NTDs are “a diverse group of communicable diseases that prevail in tropical and subtropical conditions in 149 countries.”

“Faced with diseases that today can be monitored, prevented and eliminated, there is a need for greater efforts on the parts of all to coordinate available resources in order to achieve adequate solutions,” Pope Francis and Al Nahyan said.

“This will also demand an interdisciplinary, socio-medical and environmental approach. Guaranteeing the right to treatment for all people is paramount. We therefore fully support the Reaching the Last Mile Fund and its work in treating and monitoring of NTDs, and in the future will continue to collaborate on other global health initiatives,” they said.

“Finally, we trust in the solidarity of all people who understand the sufferings of those in situations of great need in neglected and disadvantaged parts of the world, so that this needless scourge afflicting humanity may be eradicated once and for all.”

Abu Dhabi is the capital of the United Arab Emirates. Pope Francis visited the city in February, to promote interreligious dialogue and give support to the UAE’s Christian minority. He was invited by Al Nahyan, and while there he signed a peace declaration on human fraternity with Ahmed el-Tayeb, grand imam of al-Azhar, which stated that “the pluralism and the diversity of religions, colour, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom, through which He created human beings.”


What the cluck? Chick-Fil-A sauces Christian charities

November 18, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Washington D.C., Nov 18, 2019 / 01:45 pm (CNA).- American fast-food chain Chick-Fil-A has announced it will stop donating to two large faith-based charitable organizations, after years of criticism from LGBT groups.

On Monday, the Chick-Fil-A Foundation announced the organizations it would donate to in 2020. Notably, the foundation will no longer donate to the Salvation Army or to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Instead, the foundation has pledged $9 million each to Junior Achievement, Covenant House International, and local food banks near new Chick-Fil-A locations. 

“The Foundation will no longer make multi-year commitments and will reassess its philanthropic partnerships annually to allow maximum impact,” said the Chick-Fil-A Foundation in a press release. “These partners could include faith-based and non-faith-based charities.” 

Previously, the Chick-Fil-A Foundation had donated to support the Salvation Army and Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and had signed multi-year commitments with each organization. According to a statement provided to Business Insider from Chick-Fil-A, those deals were fulfilled in 2018 and were not renewed. 

The donations to Salvation Army and Fellowship of Christian Athletes were earmarked for specific programs that would assist underprivileged children.

Both the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Salvation Army promote the Biblical belief that marriage is a union between one man and one woman. Fellowship of Christian Athletes includes on its application for employment the organization’s belief that God does not approve of same-sex relationships or premarital sex. 

The Salvation Army denies allegations that it is an anti-gay organization, and says that its charitable services are available to all, regardless of sexual orientation. 

Chick-Fil-A has faced considerable controversy regarding its past charitable donations. In 2012, after the founder of Chick-Fil-A stated his opposition to same-sex marriage, there were calls for a nationwide boycott of the chain. This boycott largely failed, and Chick-Fil-A is now the third-largest restaurant chain in the country in terms of systemwide sales, trailing only McDonald’s and Starbucks. 

After the outcry in 2012, Chick-Fil-A announced that it would no longer be supporting some  organizations link to traditional views on marriage through its WinShape Foundation. The chain continued to provide support for both the Salvation Army and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. 

Chick-Fil-A’s donation history has been cited in efforts to block the restaurant from opening locations in San Antonio and Buffalo’s airports. The opening of the company’s first restaurant in United Kingdom was met with extended protests by LGBT campaigners. The owners of the U.K. shopping center hosting the Chick-Fil-A announced that the lease would not be renewed after the six month trial. 

Chick-Fil-A is closed on Sundays to give the chain’s workers a chance to attend religious services and be with their families.