The Hindu – China may be giving a diplomatic message via tri-junction

Dinakar Peri and Josy Joseph

New Delhi, 29 June 2017. The Army chief is expected to visit Sikkim as early as Thursday to review the tense standoff between Indian and Chinese troops, even as military officers said that such standoffs were not unprecedented.

Army sources said General Bipin Rawat could visit Sikkim at the earliest to review the situation where standoff between troops of both sides is believed to be continuing.

According to reliable sources, Indian Army troops objected to the Chinese soldiers carrying out construction on a road stretch through the disputed Dolam Plateau (Donglang or Doklam), triggering the confrontation. In response, Chinese authorities denied entry to pilgrims for Kailash Mansarovar Yatra via the Nathua La pass.

In a rebuff, Bhutan refutes China’s claims on Doko La road construction

Former Army chief General Shankar Roychowdhury told The Hindu that such incidents were not new and date back to 1967 when the first such clash took place at Nathu La between Indian and Chinese troops.

“This is a flashpoint. These take place from time to time,” General Roychowdhury said. However, he said the question to ask is why are such incidents taking place with such frequency.

“Is it because our Prime Minister is perceived to be too close to the USA or is it to assist its best ally Pakistan? Or is it a combination of all these factors plus history. Add to that is the fact they have turned the pilgrims away.”

Keeping India engaged

A recently retired Army officer who has served on the Sikkim border with China said he too believed that the timing of the Chinese action, not just in provoking a border standoff but to send back Kailash Mansarovar Yatra pilgrims, was a diplomatic message to coincide with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the USA.

Brigadier Gurmeet Kanwal, Distinguished Fellow, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses said these incidents were a continuum of maintaining stability at a strategic level while “keeping India engaged at the tactical level through political, diplomatic and military means.” He said the standoff would take sometime but would be resolved.

‘China used bulldozer to remove Indian bunker in Sikkim section of border’

“It could be said to be Chinese manifestation of the choices India has made in the recent past,” he said in the context of the recent disputes between the two countries and the timing of the incident.

Army sources pointed out that the standoff at the India-China-Bhutan tri-junction was not unprecedented. “It is almost an annual affair,” one officer who had served there said.

“The Chinese believe that the Dolam Plateau belongs to them, and have been constructing a road through the disputed area to Bhutan for a long time,” he pointed out.

And the present standoff must also be seen against recent diplomatic unease between the two sides, including India’s stand on the Belt and Road Initiative.

Border on the boil

There were repeated skirmishes on the Indo-China border ever since the 1962 war

September 1967: Chinese troops fired at Indian posts close to Nathu La and Indian Army retaliated with full force. Both sides suffered casualties with China significantly higher. A ceasefire was declared later.

June 1986: Indian Army launched exercise Chequerboard after China amassed thousands of troops in the Thandrong pasture on the banks of the Somdurong Chu (river). The situation was diffused diplomatically by August 1987.

November 2008: Chinese troops destroyed makeshift Indian army bunkers at Doko La near the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction.

April 2013: Chinese troops intruded in Daulat Beg Oldi in Eastern Ladakh and set up camps in Depsang valley. These came ahead of Premier Li Keqiang’s India visit.

August 2014: Chinese troops enter 25 to 30 km deep into Indian territory in Burtse area in Ladakh and pitched their tents and the standoff continued for three weeks.

September 2014: About 1,000 troops intruded 3 km inside Chumar in Eastern Ladakh. The incident lasted for a week and coincided with Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to India.

March 2016: A platoon of PLA soldiers came about 5.5 km inside the Indian territory near Pangong Tso lake in Eastern Ladakh. Incident resolved in a few hours.

June 2017: China removed an old bunker of the Indian Army located at the tri-junction of India, China and Bhutan in Sikkim by using a bulldozer after the Indian side refused to accede to its request to dismantle it.

Beijing’s stance

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang touched upon a slew off issues while addressing the media in Beijing Donglang’s status

‘Donglang is part of China’s territory. This is indisputable. The Donglang area belonged to China since ancient times and it doesn’t belong to Bhutan’.

Road project

‘Chinese construction of the road project is legitimate and normal action on its territory. No other country has the right to interfere’

Kailash-Mansarovar yatra

‘The suspension of the same is an emergency response to the situation there. I want to stress that the resumption of pilgrims pass requires necessary atmosphere and conditions’

Bhutan’s sovereignty

‘If any third party, out of hidden agenda, interferes it is disrespect of the sovereignty of Bhutan. We don’t want to see this as Bhutan is a country entitled to sovereignty by the international community’.

Pakistan’s efforts

‘China thinks that the international cooperation against terrorism should be enhanced and stepped up. The international community should give full recognition and affirmation to Pakistan’s efforts in this regard’

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/china-may-be-giving-a-diplomatic-message-via-tri-junction/article19165883.ece?homepage=true

The Times of India – Dalai Lama angle to China stopping movement of Kailash yatris

Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury

New Delhi, 27 June 2017. China has hardened its stand on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) by stopping movement of Indian pilgrims for Kailash Mansarovar Yatra through Nathu La Pass.

Beijing hasn’t given any reasons for its action, but Delhi suspects that it could be a reaction to Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh in April, sources here said.

The Chinese move came ahead of a meeting between PM Modi and Trump in Washington. The two leaders are expected to put in place an arrangement for strengthening economic partnership in the Asia-Pacific or Indo-Pacific region, sources said ahead of the meeting scheduled for early Tuesday India time.

China is emerging as a leading power in the region through an aggressive policy involving territorial claims and arm twisting.

The action in the Nathu La Pass area in Sikkim comes within weeks of an airspace violation by Chinese choppers in Uttarakhand. The situation has been further complicated with Chinese troops entering the Sikkim sector and jostling with the Indian Army personnel guarding the LAC besides destroying two bunkers.

The face-off has been going on in the Doka La general area in Sikkim for the past 10 days. A flag meeting was held between senior Army officers from both sides on June 20, but tension still persists.

It is not the first time that such a transgression has happened at the Doka La, located at the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction. Beijing had earlier warned India about the consequences of Dalai Lama’s trip to Arunachal Pradesh, whose entire territory, in particular the Tawang area visited by the Tibetan leader, is claimed by China.

On Monday, Beijing said the foreign ministry authorities of both countries were in “communication” on the suspension of the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra (KMY) through the Nathu La Pass, but didn’t give any specific reasons. This raised suspicion that there is more to meet the eye than mere landslides which Beijing initially claimed as the reason for suspending KMY through Nathu La.

The annual Yatra was suspended over the weekend and pilgrims have returned to Gangtok after the denial of permission. “There are some difficulties being experienced in movement of Kailash Mansarovar Yatris via Nathu La. The matter is being discussed with the Chinese side,” a foreign ministry official said.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said “the two foreign ministries are communicating on this issue”. There are unconfirmed reports of certain internal troubles in the region through which KMY occurs. At least seven batches of 50 pilgrims each were expected to cross over to Tibet through the Nathu La Pass.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/dalai-lama-angle-to-china-stopping-movement-of-kailash-yatris/articleshow/59331331.cms

The Hindustan Times – Mansarovar pilgrims stranded as China denies entry, MEA in talks with Beijing

Probir Pramanik

The pilgrims, who had been stranded on the Indian side of the border since June 20, returned to Gangtok on Friday.

Darjeeling, 23 June 2017. India has initiated discussions with China after a group of pilgrims headed to Manasarovar was denied permission by the neighbouring country to cross over the international border.

“Some difficulties are being experienced in the movement of Kailash-Mansarovar yatris via Nathu La. The matter is being discussed with the Chinese side,” the ministry of external affairs said.

Earlier, the 47 pilgrims who had been stranded on the Indian side of the border since June 20 after being denied access to cross over the international border, returned to Sikkim’s capital Gangtok on Friday evening.

Sources in the 17th Mountain Division of the army said that possible landslide on the Chinese side could be a cause for the denial of permission.

The pilgrims who were given accommodation in Gangtok said they were not given any reason for the denial of entry to China.

They said they had been put up at an acclimatisation camp in Sherathang, some 7 km south of Nathu La.

Nearly 40,000 pilgrims and tourists, around 80% of them from India, take part in the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra every year, which takes place between May and July.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/pilgrims-to-manasarovar-denied-entry-into-china-mea-holds-talk-with-beijing/story-TYTZwjqCGBHN7xAqzBkI4J.html

Federation of Sikh Organisations (FSO) – Sikh community appeal to the five permanent members the UN Security Council to instigate a UN led inquiry into the 1984 Sikh genocide and recognise the demand for a separate Sikh homeland, Khalistan

London, 7 June 2017

The Federation of Sikh Organisations (FSO) has written to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council on the 33rd anniversary of the Indian army attack on the Sri Harmandr Sahib Complex in Amritsar in June 1984 and the 1984 Sikh Genocide.

The letter addressed to whoever becomes the next British Prime Minister later this week has been copied to the United States of America, Chinese, French and Russian Governments. The letter states: “the Sikh campaign for Truth, Justice and Freedom is an international campaign requiring the support of foreign governments and the international community.”

Sikhs in the Diaspora are increasingly becoming politically active and beginning to influence policy makers and politicians in the countries in which they live on views about the Narendra Modi led Indian government that has been increasingly targeting minorities.

They have successfully been challenging the negative stereotype and false propaganda created over many years by the Indian authorities.

The letter calls on the next British Prime Minister to hold an independent public inquiry to get to the truth of UK involvement in the 1984 Sikh Genocide. A small Conservative majority or a hung Parliament given the official position of the Labour Party and the Scottish National Party on this issue will increase pressure on the next UK Government to concede to this demand.

The letter states: “The British Sikh response to the revelations (in January 2014) was not to respond by using violence, but use peaceful democratic means such as protests, legal challenge and political pressure to get to the truth.

In turn we need the UK Government to respect our approach and enter a meaningful dialogue at Ministerial level on how best to deliver the truth of UK involvement and assistance from the international community to expose the Indian authorities for failing to deliver justice for the 1984 Sikh Genocide.”

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council have been urged to push for a UN-led inquiry into the atrocities committed by the Indian authorities in 1984 and for UN rapporteurs and independent experts to carry out independent investigations into the torture, disappearances, false encounters and extra-judicial executions.

The letter in reference to the right to self determination and the demand for an independent Sikh state, Khalistan continues: “The UK Government working with other permanent members of the UN Security Council has a historic, legal and moral responsibility towards the Sikhs to help through diplomatic means and respect for international law to resolve a conflict that still continues.”

The Sikh Federation (UK) is a prominent member of the Federation of Sikh Organisations and its Chair, Bhai Amrik Singh said:

“The wider public see the Sikh community as a role model community and appreciate they are tolerant, hard working and peace loving people who deserve the support of the international community for a UN-led investigation into the 1984 Sikh Genocide and recognition of our demand for an independent Sikh state, Khalistan.”

Gurjeet Singh
National Press Secretary
Sikh Federation (UK)

Dawn – ‘A foreign policy disaster’: What Indian papers say about Modi’s boycott of OBOR

As dozens of world leaders arrived in Beijing to attend the “Belt and Road Forum” hosted by Chinese President Xi Jinping, India refused to send an official delegation to the summit.

India has maintained that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a flagship project of the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative, is a violation of its sovereignty and therefore, cannot be accepted. India remains particularly incensed that projects under CPEC cut through the Gilgit-Baltistan region.

Three major Indian news publications in their editorials or op/eds have largely criticised India’s refusal to attend the summit in Beijing, calling it a failure the country’s foreign policy and diplomacy.

Others maintained that India’s reservations regarding Beijing’s OBOR initiative are valid.

“India’s objection to CPEC is extremely valid, but the moot point remains that we were not able to carry any of the big powers on the vital question of Westphalian sovereignty.

“The One Belt One Road conference convened by the People’s Republic of China over the weekend to unveil and showcase the most ambitious connectivity project of modern times represents the grandest failure of Indian foreign policy and it’s quarantine into splendid isolation.

“By boycotting the summit rather than showing up and making our voice heard loud and clear in the comity of nations, India has in fact sent out a message that it will make proforma noise on this issue but actually acquiesce to the fait accompli.”

India cannot sit out: The Hindu

“[India’s] concerns are no doubt valid, and the refusal to join the [OBOR initiative] till China addresses the objection over Gilgit-Baltistan is understandable. The decision to not attend even as an observer, however, effectively closes the door for diplomacy.

It stands in contrast to countries such as the US and Japan, which are not a part of the B&RI but sent official delegations.”

“It must actively engage with China to have its particular grievances addressed, articulate its concerns to other partner countries in a more productive manner, and take a position as an Asian leader, not an outlier in the quest for more connectivity.”

India strikes out for its own interest: Times of India

India has undertaken an uncharacteristically bold foreign policy move by refusing to participate in the OBOR summit in Beijing, meant to be China’s grand coming out globalisation party.

It may, in fact, be salient for New Delhi and MEA to study Chinese negotiation technique over the last three or four decades and imbibe some of it, especially when it comes to negotiating with Beijing itself.”

India has its reasons to boycott China’s Belt Road initiative – Hindustan Times

“India has emerged as the most vocal opponent of China’s continent-spanning infrastructure project. The reasons for New Delhi’s scepticism about the Belt-Road Initiative may not seem evident. They become clear, however, when seen through the prism of geopolitics.

It is increasingly difficult to buy Beijing’s arguments that their plan to splash a few trillion dollars around the world is a benign gift to the world.

In any case, India has never said it would try to undermine or block Chinese projects in other countries, merely that it would not be signing up for the initiative. It remains an open question why Beijing is so insistent that India endorse the BRI, especially given that it has seen fit to turn against New Delhi in almost every other international fora including the Nuclear Suppliers Group.”

The Business Standard took a similar positions, saying India’s caution on OBOR is well founded.

“India should be cautious about participating in other components of the OBOR as well,” the publication’s editorial reads.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1333492/a-foreign-policy-disaster-what-indian-papers-say-about-modis-boycott-of-obor

The Asian Age – OBOR: China’s Xi Jinping, Nawaz Sharif snub India

China is planning to invest billions of dollars in building railways, waterways and highways as part of its OBOR initiative

Sridhar Kumaraswami

New Delhi, 15 May 2017. Taking on India without naming it, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif hailed the controversial China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in his address at the One Belt One Road (OBOR) conference, boycotted by New Delhi, in Beijing on Sunday, saying the CPEC was an “economic undertaking open to all countries in the region”, that “it has no geographical boundaries” and that “it must not be politicised”.

India, which skipped the conference opening ceremony, had issued a strong statement Saturday night referring to the CPEC, saying: “No country can accept a project that ignores its core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

In an apparent snub to New Delhi, which is opposed to the CPEC (a flagship project of OBOR) as it passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, Chinese President Xi Jinping told the OBOR conference that “all countries should respect each other’s sovereignty, dignity and territorial integrity, each other’s development paths and social systems, and each other’s core interests and major concerns”.

India is the only major invitee to boycott the meet and this is expected to further widen the schism between New Delhi and Beijing, triggered by China blocking India’s NSG membership and also blocking UN sanctions on Pakistan-based terrorist mastermind Masood Azhar.

Hailing China whom he described as his country’s “close friend and trusted ally”, Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif told the OBOR meet: “The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is a core project of OBOR. In fact, it has been rightly called its flagship because it aims to connect the neighbourhoods of East and West Asia.

CPEC makes Pakistan both a conduit and destination for cross-regional investment and trade. Let me make it very clear that CPEC is an economic undertaking open to all countries in the region. It has no geographical boundaries. It must not be politicised.

In implementing this corridor, we are not striving to merely leverage geography for economic prosperity, we are also trying to build a peaceful, connected and caring neighbourhood. It is time we transcend our differences, resolve conflicts through dialogue and diplomacy, and leave a legacy of peace for future generations… The CPEC is a project owned and nurtured by all citizens of Pakistan”.

In another veiled barb at India, Mr Sharif added: “Before I conclude, I must emphasise OBOR has gained wide traction. It negates the logic of polarisation and rejects the encirclement of any country. It is about connectivity. It is about emancipation…

The fact is that now OBOR belongs to us all, those who are participating in it and those who are not as yet.”

PTI reported from Beijing that India skipped the opening ceremony of the conference after New Delhi’s strong statement late on Saturday that read: “Regarding the so-called ‘China-Pakistan Economic Corridor’, projected as the flagship project of OBOR, the international community is well aware of India’s position.

No country can accept a project that ignores its core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity… Connectivity must be pursued in a manner that respects sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

China is planning to invest billions of dollars in building railways, waterways and highways as part of its OBOR initiative. The proposed OBOR comprises two corridors, one on land and the other maritime.

The land corridors will be part of the Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB), with corridors through Central, West and South Asia that will link China with Europe. The proposed SREB will forge China’s links with Western Europe through Central Asia and Russia, and with the Mediterranean via West Asia.

Further, it will also ensure access to the Indian Ocean by the much shorter land route through Pakistan that passes through PoK, culminating in Gwadar port in Balochistan province.

The second part of OBOR is an ambitious plan for sea routes linking China with Southeast Asia and onward to Africa, supplemented by rail and road networks for which Beijing has heavily invested in Africa.

http://www.asianage.com/world/asia/150517/obor-chinas-xi-jinping-nawaz-sharif-snub-india.html

The Hindustan Times – India may skip Xi’s showpiece Belt and Road summit over sovereignty concerns

Riled by Beijing’s nonchalance over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that impinges on India’s sovereignty, New Delhi is set to skip President Xi Jinping’s showpiece Belt and Road Forum (BRF) summit in the Chinese capital.

Jayanth Jacob

New Delhi, 13 May 2017. India will likely skip the two-day Belt and Road Forum (BRF) summit, a signature project of President Xi Jinping beginning in Beijing on Sunday, due to New Delhi’s concerns over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that passes through a disputed area in Kashmir.

There was no formal statement from the external affairs ministry but sources said India won’t attend the meet following a series of tussles between the two big Asian economies over matters related to sovereignty.

Twenty nine countries are expected to be represented by either their heads of state or government at the BRF, President Xi’s ambitious initiative to connect Asia to Europe and Africa with a massive network of rail, road and maritime links.

The infrastructure project, couched in China’s soft power projections, would help China get road routes that are necessary for both its energy needs and selling goods in Asian, European and African markets.

The China-Pakistan economic corridor, a showpiece project of the initiative, passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). India has been protesting China’s economic activities in PoK but skipping the high-profile meet amounts to making a very strong disapproval.

India is concerned that the 3,000 km long project connecting Pakistan’s deep-water port Gwadar and China’s Xinjiang stem from the fact that the facility in Pakistan, which was taken over by the Chinese, could become a future naval base that will enable Beijing to increase its sphere of influence in the Indian Ocean region.

Beijing has been nonchalant about the CPEC impinging on India’s sovereignty as it passes through the Gilgit-Baltistan region which India claims as its own.

In recent days, China has tried to assuage India’s feelings by asserting that the commercial corridor will not have any impact on its stand that the Kashmir issue should be settled by New Delhi and Islamabad through dialogue.

Over the past year, New Delhi and Beijing have locked horns over India’s entry into the NSG club, a proposed UN ban on Jaish-e-Muhammad leader Masood Azhar and the Dalai Lama’s Arunachal Pradesh visit.

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi had said on April 17 that India would have a representative at the BRF.

“Although the Indian leader is not here, India will have a representative,” Wang had told journalists.

While India is yet to formally announce that it won’t attend the meet, the US in a u-turn on Friday decided to send a delegation to the BRF after initially saying it wouldn’t attend.

Matthew Pottinger, a top adviser to the Trump administration and National Security Council senior director for East Asia will lead the US delegation. And Beijing will be undoubtedly pleased with this.

Playing down India’s absence at the meeting, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a press conference on Friday that Indian scholars would be attending the meeting.

Japan will be sending a delegation led by a vice-minister.

The May 14-15 summit, which is expected to strengthen Xi’s power base as he gets set to begin his second five-year tenure later this year, will be attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

A number of other countries, including South Korea, France, Germany and UK, have deputed either ministerial or official delegations.

Considering CPEC’s importance in the plan, it is the only project at present with prospects of delivering early results, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is expected to take centrestage to highlight its significance as a “game changer” for his country.

The Pakistani delegation will have five federal ministers and four chief ministers.

China has already committed $46 billion Chinese investments for various energy and infrastructure related projects in Pakistan.

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe will be attending the meeting after hosting his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi at home.

From Nepal, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Krishna Bahadur Mahara will lead the delegation. Bangladesh and the Maldives will also have official representations.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/india-set-to-skip-xi-s-showpiece-belt-and-road-summit-over-sovereignty-concerns/story-rH3HeMuYvMLoFT1vBoKUAP.html

Human Rights Without Frontiers – Xinjiang court gives 5 Christians harsh sentences

ChinaAid, 25 April 2017. In a move that a defense attorney termed harsh, five Christians in China’s northwestern Xinjiang were jailed for 3-5 years on April 18 for participating in the planning of a Bible study.

On April 18, a court in Changji, Xinjiang, sentenced Christians Yang Zhaocun and Wang Lulu to five years in prison, Cheng Yajie to four years, and Liu Yan and Zheng Lan to three years.

Officials tried the defendants last October on charges of illegal assembly and “gathering a crowd to disturb public order”, after they held a private Christian event at Zheng Lan’s home. The court did not notify the defense lawyers of the court’s verdict.

One defense attorney said, “The judges wrongfully determined the nature of the case, and the sentences were unreasonably harsh. How can private gatherings disrupt public order? The public security bureau exceeded its authority and crossed a line”.

During the trial, Wang and Cheng admitted that they participated in an “illegal assembly,” and Zheng confessed to hosting so-called “illegal religious activities”.

Their supposed crimes stem from a gathering of more than 50 Christians at Zheng’s home on 5 March 2016, where the congregants studied the Bible and listened to sermons.

According to a government document, Yang and Liu were responsible for researching potential meeting places and transporting the meeting’s attendees, activities which make them accessories to crime, while the others were labeled primary criminals.

When authorities raided the gathering, Yang, Zheng, Cheng, and Wang were taken into custody, while Liu was seized at her home.

All of the defendants plead innocent, and all are planning to appeal.

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Human Rights Without Frontiers – Village crackdown on ‘illegal religious activities’ nets dozens of Uyghurs

Radio Free Asia, 26 April 2017. Dozens of ethnic Uyghurs from a small village in northwestern China’s Xinjiang region, including several sets of siblings, have been swept up in a recent crackdown on “illegal religious activities” after they attended lectures by unsanctioned imams, according to local officials.

At least 52 Uyghurs in Tomosteng township’s No. 2 village, in Kashgar (in Chinese, Kashi) prefecture’s Yarkand (Shache) county, have been arrested under related charges, the 140-household village’s party secretary Ablet Hekim told RFA’s Uyghur Service in an interview earlier this week.

Of those arrests, 39 were the result of a “recent” sweep by local authorities, Hekim said, adding that 35 are now in jail and the remaining four-all of whom are “unofficial imams” that the state does not recognize-have been sent for “political reeducation”.

The other 13 have been serving sentences “since previous sweeps during the 2000s,” according to the party secretary.
“This week we have handed down verdicts for 13 out of the 35 [now held in jail] and delivered the official notices to their families, door to door,” Hekim said.

Sentences for the 13 ranged from two-and-a-half to 10 years in prison.

“The 35 listened to ‘illegal religious sermons’ at least two times, because we usually only warn one-time listeners and let them go,” he said.

According to Hekim, the sermons did not contain any sensitive references to “dividing the country” or anti-government rhetoric often linked to unsanctioned religious activities.

“They were sentenced simply because they had listened to sermons by the unofficial imam Abdukerim at an unauthorized venue [outside of a government sanctioned-mosque]”, he said.

Hekim provided RFA with a list of all 35 Uyghurs held amid the crackdown, as well as their ages.

Among the 35, three women: Buhelish Nur, Heyrinsa Ehmet and Patima Seyittursun, were punished for “inviting people to attend” the sermons, he said.

At least five sets of siblings were jailed as part of the recent sweep, including brothers Ahmat, Tursun and Imin Zayit, as well as sister and brother Nurimangul and Memet Talip.

“Ahmat Zayit’s family has no one of working age left at home, so there is no one maintaining their fields,” he Hekim said.

“His kids have been taken in by his nephew’s family”.

Report of arrest

RFA obtained confirmation of the 52 arrests in No. 2 village while investigating a report published last week by exile Uyghur website Hoylam.com, which claimed that a 73-year-old Uyghur woman named Helchihan Hoshur was detained after making disparaging comments about Chinese policies during a “self-criticism” session in Tomosteng township’s neighboring No. 7 village.

Party secretaries from three different villages in Tomosteng township, including No. 3 village chief Qembernisa Hashim, were unable to confirm Hoshur’s detention.

“We do not have anybody like that, all the detainees in our village are males, Hashim told RFA, without providing details about the detainees there.

“We would have recognized her, since we conduct a lot of political educational work with her family members”.
RFA was unable to confirm the identities of the male detainees from No. 7 village or the reason for their arrests.

China has vowed to crack down on what it calls religious extremism in Xinjiang, and regularly conducts “strike hard” campaigns including police raids on Uyghur households, restrictions on Islamic practices, and curbs on the culture and language of the Uyghur people, including videos and other material.

While China blames Uyghur extremists for terrorist attacks, experts outside China say Beijing has exaggerated the threat from the Uyghurs and that repressive domestic policies are responsible for an upsurge in violence there that has left hundreds dead since 2009.

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Human Rights Without Frontiers – China: Police raid at the underground Catholic mass in Heilongjiang

Acting together, the Religious Affairs Bureau, Public Security and the United Front carried out the operation. Seized before Easter, the bishop of Wenzhou is back home. Bishop Guo Xijin of Mindong is still in police custody. The confrontation with the Vatican increases.

AsiaNews.it, 27 April 2017. Heilongjiang’s Communist authorities congratulated themselves for “blocking illegal religious activities”.

When police raided a small community hall during Mass, they ransacked the place and tried to arrest the parish priest and the community’s lay leader.

The action was taped and the video was briefly posted on-line. In it, several police agents can be seen discussing animatedly with worshippers and trying to remove Fr Shen Yanjun, an underground priest who took up his post in the church in Qinshan (Wudalianchi) seven months ago.

In a statement, local authorities said they “successfully stopped an underground Catholic priest from holding an illegal religious activity”.

The police raid was a joint operation between the Religious Affairs Bureau, Public Security and the United Front.

Since they are opposed to a dialogue between the Chinese government and the Holy See, the Religious Affairs Ministry and the United Front (which includes the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association) continue to clash with the Church and the Vatican.

Before Easter they seized two underground bishops, Mgr Vincent Guo Xijin of Mindong and Mgr Peter Shao Zhumin of Wenzhou, to prevent them from celebrating Easter services in their respective diocese.

Both are recognised by the Holy See but not by the government. Sources told AsiaNews that Mgr Shao is now back home whilst Mgr Guo’s whereabouts remain unknown.

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