Over the past year, the Chinese government has intensified
its crackdown on Christians and other religious groups across China.
incarceration of over one million predominantly Muslim Uyghurs,
Kazakhs and members of other ethnic groups in ‘re-education camps’ in Xinjiang since
2017 has alarmed the international community, with the detentions receiving UN
condemnation. At the same time, Christians across China are also being
relentlessly targeted by the Chinese state apparatus, with countless violations
ranging from the arrest and torture of religious practitioners to the forced
closure of places of worship remaining a daily reality for those peacefully
exercising their universal right to freedom of religion or belief (FoRB).
Since the revised regulations on religious affairs came into effect on 1 February 2018, reports have emerged of the removal of over 7,000 crosses in Henan province alone. Christians in Henan have also reported that unregistered churches across the province have been forcibly shuttered by authorities. Outside of Henan, in the wake of the revised regulations authorities across China continue to harass worshippers and restrict religious observance at state-approved churches by removing religious symbols from buildings, banning under-18s from religious activities, and forcing churches to install cameras and sing pro-Communist songs.
The Ladies in White are a Cuban peaceful
protest movement comprising the wives and other female relatives of jailed
dissidents. Last year CSW interviewed their leader, Berta Soler, about her
experiences, and the challenges facing Cuba:
“My activism really
got started in 2003 when the government took [imprisoned] 75 men and one woman just
because they defended the Declaration of Human Rights.
I and the other Ladies
in White are women who are prepared, very well prepared, and aware that we are
in a struggle for the freedom of political prisoners and for respect for human
rights in my country. And we, the Ladies in White and I, are very conscious
that in my country we need freedom and rights, especially for the men and women
who are in prison just for demanding this and promoting and defending the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights.
On the morning of 17 September, Eritrean security operatives arrested former Minister of Finance Berhane Abrehe in Asmara. According to local reports, 73 year old Mr Abrehe was out having breakfast with his son when he was approached by security agents and instructed to accompany them.
The arrest followed the publication and launch of a two-volume book authored by Mr Abrehe entitled ‘Eritra Hageray’ (Eritrea My Country) in Washington DC. The book is described on the cover as presenting an Eritrean plan on how to end dictatorship and prevent it from happening again. The book received endorsements from several former Eritrean officials in exile, and were accompanied by an audio clip in which Mr Abrehe called, among other things, for the convening of the National Assembly and challenged President Afwerki to a public debate.
Mr Abrehe is currently in an unknown location. He has been unwell for some time, and there are legitimate concerns for his wellbeing. Mr Abrehe’s wife, Almaz Habtemariam, has been detained since early 2018, in reprisal for one of their four children fleeing the country. Both he and his wife are veterans of the liberation struggle.
Germano Nati Gojo, an Eritrean politician, was arrested at his home by security agents as he listened to the radio on his veranda. One agent stood outside the gate. The other entered and said: “Sir, we need you on a work-related issue”. Saying nothing, Germano Nati Gojo stood up, went to change his clothes and left with them. His two younger children, then aged 16 and 12, witnessed this. The family has not seen or heard from him in 17 years, despite inquiring.
His eldest son, Yona Germano Nati, addressed the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in March 2018. He spoke of how his father had joined the struggle for independence of Eritrea in 1976, shared the story of his father’s enforced disappearance in September 2001, and described their poignant last meeting prior to the arrest, during which his father expressed his readiness to be jailed alongside his pro-reform colleagues who are now known collectively as the G 15.