LONDON: Human rights leader Lord Nazir Ahmed has raised the significant issue of Hui Muslims with Chinese ambassador to Britain, Liu Xiaoming asking him to take up this matter with his government in Beijing.
Responding to letter of Lord Ahmed, the Chinese ambassador has said that respecting and safeguarding the freedom of religious belief is a basic policy of the Chinese Government. This basic citizen’s right is enshrined in China’s Constitution and law. The Constitution of the People’s Republic of China stipulates the following: “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief. No state organ, public organisation or individual may compel citizens to believe in, or not to believe in, any religion; nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in, or do not believe in, any religion. The State protects normal religious activities.”
Liu Xiaoming said that the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Regional National Autonomy, the General Principles of the Civil Law of the People’s Republic of China and other laws stipulate that the lawful property of social organisations, including religious organisations, shall be protected by law and all citizens, regardless of religious belief, shall enjoy equal opportunities for education according to law. These legal safeguards for Chinese citizen’s right to freedom of religious belief are basically the same with related provisions of international conventions. There are 57,000 members of the Islamic clergy and over 20 million Muslims in China. Their lawful rights and interests are protected effectively.
Liu Xiaoming went on to say that the Chinese Government manages religious affairs according to law, requires all religious groups to operate according to the law, regulations and policies, and focuses on protecting the legal rights and interests of religious groups, religious venue, normal religious activities performed by members of the clergy, and normal religious activities of followers. Relevant departments of the Chinese Government have managed the social services for religious venues and improved relevant operation and management in strict accordance with law and regulations. This is aimed at maintaining the order of religious venues, and improving the public service and social safeguards, and providing a sound environment for law-abiding clergy and followers in order to protect the basic interests of religious organization, venues and believers.
The Chinese ambassador concluded saying that with regard to the case you mentioned in your letter, I want to emphasise that China is a country under the rule of law, and Chinese people of all ethnic groups enjoy freedom of religious belief according to law. The competent departments of the local government in China have dealt with relevant issues and protected the lawful rights and interests of religious people according to law.
In his letter, Lord Ahmed drew the attention of Chinese ambassador towards the alarming situation and said that he may be aware that thousands of China’s Hui Muslims gathered outside a mosque in Weizhou, Northwestern China to protest against the Government’s decision to demolish this mosque which is newly built and furnished just last year.
Local authorities claims that this building lacks the proper permits and must be demolished whereas worshipers argue that, had there been any violations of planning laws, the authorities should have raised their concerns during the construction process.
Lord Ahmed said that it is reported that in the recent crackdowns, the government has banned religious education for young people in mosques, ordered the call to prayer (Azan) over loudspeakers to be silenced, and sought to stamp out alleged Arab elements in the mosques. This will leave them with no option except to fight against their own institutions. These are Chinese Muslims with Chinese traditions and therefore should be treated as Chinese rather with suspicion.
“I therefore strongly urge your Government to engage with the protesters who are well integrated in society with decades of smooth ties with the government. Whilst no one should be above the law, the authorities should have negotiated the design of the Mosque at earlier stage of construction rather at this late stage”, Lord Ahmed emphasised.