‘A new front’ in the pursuit of justice in Cuba

On the night of 28 February, Cuban police and State Security agents carried out a raid, capturing a man who they had been searching for 44 days. He was taken to an interrogation center and given an ultimatum: leave the country within the week or spend the next 30 years in a maximum-security prison. In early March, the man said good-bye to his wife and baby daughter and boarded a plane to Europe. Eighteen hours later, he submitted a formal request for asylum in Switzerland.

The man had committed no act of violence, nor had he stolen anything. He is a pastor. His only crime was to have extended his pastoral work to reach out to and pray with the families of political prisoners.

The Cuban government has long been fearful of any link between religious groups and political dissidents and has, for decades, gone to great effort to keep both as separate as possible. This is in part a general strategy to socially isolate all those it considers to be dissidents, including political activists, human rights defenders and independent journalists, in order to weaken and ultimately neutralise them. However, it is also, whether any of the Cuban Communist Party leadership would admit it or not, a recognition of the power in the combination of spirituality with the fight for justice and freedom.

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“Un nuevo frente” en búsqueda de la justicia en Cuba

En la noche del 28 de febrero, la policía cubana y agentes de la Seguridad del Estado realizaron un allanamiento, apresando a un hombre al que buscaban desde hacía 44 días. Lo llevaron a un centro de interrogatorios y le dieron un ultimátum: Abandonar el país en una semana o pasar los próximos 30 años en una prisión de máxima seguridad. A principios de marzo, el hombre se despidió de su esposa y de su pequeña hija y abordó un avión rumbo a Europa. Dieciocho horas después, presentó una solicitud formal de asilo en Suiza.

El hombre no había cometido ningún acto de violencia, ni había robado nada. Él es un pastor. Su único delito fue haber extendido su labor pastoral para alcanzar y orar con las familias de los presos políticos.

El gobierno cubano ha temido durante mucho tiempo cualquier vínculo entre grupos religiosos y disidentes políticos y, durante décadas, ha hecho un gran esfuerzo para mantener a ambos lo más separados posible. Esta es en parte, una estrategia general para aislar socialmente a todos aquellos que considera disidentes, incluidos activistas políticos, defensores de los derechos humanos y periodistas independientes, con el fin de debilitarlos y, en última instancia, neutralizarlos. Sin embargo, es también, lo admita o no alguna dirigencia del Partido Comunista de Cuba, un reconocimiento del poder que se produce por la combinación de la espiritualidad con la lucha por la justicia y la libertad.

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许那:遭遇过两场镇压的人生

六月是个悲伤的季节,对无数的中国人来说,1989年春夏之交发生在北京天安门广场的一切,是一条从未愈合仍在流血的伤口。在中国,“六四”是禁忌的敏感词,任何回忆和纪念都被中共当局视为公然反抗。但每年此时在世界各地都会有很多追思纪念活动。在中国,无数人的生命轨迹因为八九六四发生了巨大的改变。他们至今仍以各自无声的方式坚守着对历史的记忆。 

当年天安门广场上的绝食学生中,有一位名叫许那(又名许娜),是北京广播学院(现中国传媒大学)的学生。32年前,她曾和同学高举“新闻自由,言论自由”的横幅,满怀希望地走在北京街头游行的人群中。32年后,许那仍在北京,却已在东城区看守所被刑事拘留近一年了。 

人生巨变,监狱历程 

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Pastors or fraudsters? Neither registered nor unregistered religious leaders are safe from the Chinese Communist Party’s false allegations

Under China’s current religious regulations, only government-approved faith leaders can carry out government-approved religious activities in government-approved sites. As a result, there are many situations in which a religious leader can find themselves on the wrong side of the law in China, even facing charges that have no apparent connection to religion but can carry lengthy sentences.

The widely-reported cases of Pastor Wang Yi and Pastor Yang Hua highlight how the Chinese authorities prosecute leaders of unregistered Protestant churches with flagrantly baseless criminal charges: ‘inciting to subvert state power’ and ‘illegal business operations’ for Wang and ‘divulging state secrets’ for Yang. Alarmingly, fraud charges seem to have become one of the most damaging tools that the authorities use against pastors, for persecution as well as defamation.

Elder Zhang Chunlei

On 1 May 2021, the day the new administrative measures on religious clergy came into effect, Love Reformed Church received a notice saying their leader Zhang Chunlei had been officially arrested ‘on suspicion of fraud’. To this, the unregistered church in Guiyang in Guizhou province expressed incredulity in a prayer update issued on the same day.

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From one crackdown to another: The life of Xu Na

In China, June is a sombre month for those who remember the mass pro-democracy protests across the country and the military’s bloody crackdown in 1989. Remembrance itself is an act of defiance against the suppression and manipulation of history by the Chinese authorities. Each year, events are held worldwide to pay tributes to the victims and their families.

What is less widely reported however, is how survivors’ lives have been changed by the tragic events of  ‘June 4th’, as the events are known in China.

One of the protesters on Tiananmen Square was Xu Na, then a student at Beijing Broadcasting Institute (BBI). She was holding a banner with her fellow friends that read “Freedom of the Press; Freedom of Speech” while marching through the Beijing streets. Thirty-two years later, Xu Na is in another place in Beijing: Dongcheng District Detention Centre, where she has been criminally detained for the past 11 months.

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