WORLD/HUNGARY: Budapest report on Christian persecution 2020

HRWF (26.04.2021) – The Budapest Report on Christian Persecution 2020 (437 pages) has just been published this month and is available in Hungarian and English. You can read it here.

 

The numerous contributions to this report present the persecution of Christians in different regions of the world from the point of view of security policy, history, fundamental rights, and public law, among others. The studies of this new volume are organized into three main themes. In addition to the regional presentation of acts of violence against Christian communities, the volume also deals with the phenomenon and its international legal aspects in a general, theoretical context, as well as the role of state and church organizations in solving the problem.

 

You can also watch the roundtable discussions in Hungarian (sub-titles in English) about the new volume here.

 

Contents

Foreword by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán

Welcoming Thoughts by Cardinal Péter Erdő

Welcoming Thoughts by Rector András Koltay

Introductory Essays

Tristan Azbej: The Situation of Persecuted Christians and the Hungarian Help in 2020

Balázs Orbán: Christianity in the Hungarian National Identity

Ágoston Sámuel Mráz: Domestic Reactions to the Hungarian Government’s International Aid Policy

Antal Hámori: The State Protection, Help and Support of Persecuted Christians in 2020

Regional Presentation of Certain Acts of Violence against Christian Communities

András Stefanovszky: The Situation of Christian Communities in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2020

Károly Gergely: A Coffin from a Cradle: The Situation of Middle Eastern Christian Communities in 2020

Eszter Rebeka Józsa: Anti-Christian Violence in South and Southeast Asia in 2020

József Kaló: Violent Acts Committed against Christians in 2020

Viktor Marsai: Old–New Scenes of Christian Persecution on the African Continent

András Kóré: The Situation of Christian Communities in East Africa amidst the Increasing Civilisational Opposition

Mátyás Bódi: The Situation of Somali Christians in the United Kingdom and Sweden

Dávid Szvercsek: The Security Policy Situation of Sudanese Christians and their Humanitarian Aid Needs

Zoltán Lomnici: Challenges Facing Christians in the Balkans with Particular Reference to Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina

Ellen Fantini: Hate Crimes against Christians in Europe

Jacqueline Isaac – Arthur Traldi: Christians Targeted by ISIS in Iraq and Syria: Holding Perpetrators Accountable

Nathan Johnson: Nigeria: The Centre Point of Modern Christian Persecution

General Theoretical Reflections on the Security Situation of Christians

Dénes Harai: Some Anthropological Aspects of Christian Culture

László Gájer: Christians on the Periphery: Dialogue, Mission and Solidarity

Miklós Szánthó: Spiritual Christian Persecution in Europe

György Berényi: The Global Geopolitical Place and Significance of Hungary’s 2020 National Security Strategy in the Protection of Christian Culture, Values and Faith

Zsolt Csutak: Is the United States the Land of Religious Tolerance?

Gábor Sz. Nagy: The Persecution of Christians – Narratives in the Hungarian Press between 1990 and 2010

Ágnes Környei: Possible Means of Countering the Persecution of Christians

Ewelina U. Ochab: Bridging the Gap in Genocide Response: The Need for Genocide Determination

State and Church Organisations in Defence of Christianity

Hajnalka Szilágyi-Kiss: Hungary Helps in Iraq – Security Policy Aspects of the Hungary Helps Program

Lóránd Ujházi: The Activities of Apostolic Delegates in Defence of Persecuted Christians

Milán Mór Markovics: The Possible Roles of (Hungarian) Military Chaplains in Defence of Christians

Tamás Tóth: The Hungarian Catholic Bishops’ Conference in Aid of Persecuted Christians

Zsolt Paroda: British Government Policy and Parliamentary Activities in Defence of Persecuted Christians

István Tomcsányi – György Gregersen-Labossa: The International Activities of the Order of Saint John in Aid of Persecuted Christians

Ferenc Petruska: Current Changes in the State and Church Cooperation for Persecuted Christians.

József Padányi – József Ondrék: The Contribution of the Military Forces to the Protection of Christians during the Coronavirus Epidemic in Hungary and Abroad

Lajos Komjáthy: The Importance of Religious Knowledge in Peace Operations, with Special Reference to Religious Groups Living in Crisis Areas

Máté Szaplonczay: How Does the Hungarian Greek Catholic Church Help Persecuted Christian Communities?




UNITED KINGDOM/ WORLD: Report on Gender and Freedom of Religion or Belief

Section Gender and FORB of the Commentary on the Current State of International Freedom of Religion or Belief (2020)

https://appgfreedomofreligionorbelief.org/media/2020-APPG-commentary-final.pdf

 

APPG (01.03.2021) – Stakeholders of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief have reported concerns at the intersection between freedom of religion or belief and gender in several countries.

 

This section offers a precis of some of the key issues of concern and several salient examples.

The COVID-19 global pandemic has had catastrophic consequences for vulnerable populations around the globe. At the intersection of gender and FoRB is a compounding of vulnerabilities which in ‘normal’ times is systematically exploited by antagonists of FoRB.29 This produces a global pattern of abuse including ‘forced marriage’ and ‘sexual assault’ as the two most common tactics used against Christian women in 50 countries.30

COVID-19 restrictions have further exacerbated these complex vulnerabilities whilst simultaneously increasing impunity for aggressors. Governments, civil society actors and fragile national infrastructures struggle to deliver a COVID-19 response resulting in greater impunity for perpetrators of gender-specific religious persecution.

Gender-based violence targeting minorities merely blends in with the increased domestic violence or honour killings. Many of these abuses and violations are hidden and under-reported or, at worst, known and yet dismissed in pandemic times. A senior leader in India has stated they have lost significant ground in protecting religious minority women against gender-based violence (GBV) as there has been a significant increase in targeted trafficking of vulnerable communities facing economic hardship and lack of food security due to lockdowns.

A report published last year by The Coalition for Religious Equality and Inclusive Development (CREID) stated, “The evidence gathered suggests that across contexts and religions, there is a pattern of girls and women being targeted for sexual grooming, not only out of sexual predation, but a wider political project to hurt the religious minority and create a religiously homogenous society.”31

Country content:

In India, Dalit women experience double marginalisation due to their gender and caste. In October 2020, the BBC reported on a Dalit woman who was gang-raped in Uttar Pradesh.32 The situation in India is a microcosm representative of other regions. FoRB violations here have been exacerbated during COVID-19. Furthermore, evidence suggests that government restrictions and violence are gender specific.

 

In Nepal, some women and girls convert to Christianity. However, it is dangerous for them to reveal their faith, so they quietly or secretly take part in church services. When known, they are discriminated against by their peers, socially ostracized and severely beaten by family members. Immediate family of ‘convert’ Christians may lock them up. After isolation, they are often deprived of basic survival needs, educational support, parental possessions and basic legal rights. Physical violence comes gradually after emotional and mental torture.33

In some rural areas, Christians are socially boycotted and are not allowed to use community resources. In one instance, the Buddhists living in a post-earthquake IDP camp did not allow Christians to share water from the same supply system, and two separate supplies had to be installed. As it is women who use community resources more often than men, this denial of resources affects them more.34

In Malaysia, legal rights of women and girls are undermined by provisions that make exceptions for sharia.

Civil society organizations stated in a Feb 2018 CEDAW report “Muslim women now enjoy far less rights in marriage, divorce, guardianship of their children and inheritance than their non-Muslim counterparts.” It also stated: “Other areas of gross discrimination against women under the Islamic Family Laws include divorce, polygamy and child marriage.”35

These laws open avenues of vulnerability for female converts from Islam to Christianity, the most prevalent being the threat of rape and/or forced marriage to a Muslim. The minimum legal age for marriage in the Islamic family laws (16 for female) can be lowered with the consent of a sharia judge. This law increases the vulnerability of girls who convert to Christianity. The federal government tried to act against child marriages but encountered the bitter resistance of conservative Muslim federal states. In some cases, young Christian women are abducted, never to be heard of again. This is an effective tactic because once they are ‘registered’ as Muslims there is no mechanism for reversing this, even in the event of divorce. Additionally, all children born because of the so-called “marriage” are also legally considered Muslim. A small number of converts are thought to have fled or gone into hiding to avoid this kind of religiously motivated family retribution.

In Iraq, some 2,800 Yazidi women are still missing and both Yazidis and Christians are subject to regular violence and often blamed for the spread of COVID-19.

Concerns were raised by minority faith groups in August 2019 that proposals to include four Islamic clerics among the Federal Supreme Court’s 13 members could mean that sharia would always take precedence.

Opponents claimed it would end attempts to overturn legislation such as that which prevents Christian men from marrying Muslim women without converting to Islam.

Iraqi women are guaranteed equal rights in the Iraqi Provisional Constitution, ensuring their right to vote, run for political office, own property, and for girls to attend schools.36

However, there are still existing provisions that discriminate against women in the Iraqi Constitution, the Personal Status Law, and the Penal Code. There has not been significant progress in this since the launch of the Iraqi National Action Plan (INAP) for Women, Peace and Security (WPS) to implement the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (1325) on Women, Peace and Security in 2014. While this was a promise of enabling women’s participation and protection in the processes of conflict resolution and peacebuilding in Iraq37 there has been little progress in a country experiencing continued economic instability, popular protests, and security problems. While the constitution requires 25 per cent of MPs to be women, they remain side-lined from making a positive contribution to peace and security initiatives and reconciliation efforts.

The reality for Iraqi women is that the impact of war and sectarian conflict has left many as widows, who can quickly fall victim to poverty.

The impact of freedom of religion and belief violations has further disempowered women from religious minorities. The Daesh conflict, early marriage, exclusion from school, domestic violence, and lack of knowledge of their social and legal rights means that their interests are unrepresented, particularly in the Nineveh Plains area of northern Iraq, which lacks a security framework and federal government commitment to lasting change. Representation continues to be made for a concerted effort to empower Iraqi religious and ethnic minorities, particularly women, through local civic representatives.38 For Iraqi women from religious minorities, it is also virtually impossible for them to secure jobs in the public sector or even in the private sector outside their own communities as they do not have full citizenship rights. The combination of a lack of legal rights, opportunities for employment, violence from within their own communities and the threat of violence from militia groups, and now the COVID-19 pandemic, means that some minorities may leave Iraq permanently,39 pushing Iraq into further economic destabilisation and its religious minorities into extinction.40

Women are particularly vulnerable within these destabilising circumstances.

A report by Open Doors USA makes the point that there are gendered differences in how men and women in religious minority communities face pressures at the intersection of gender and religious identity.41 It observes that men in religious minorities face greater risk of physical violence, economic harassment and incarceration, women face greater risk of sexual violence, forced marriage and forced divorce.42

In Pakistan, the Hazara Shia community had to face the consequences of the provincial government’s mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis, as the community was blamed43 for the spread of the virus. Hazara women in particular bore the brunt. Most of the Hazara women who were forced to quarantine had to spend 4444 days in the quarantine camp in Quetta, Balochistan. The quarantine camps had sub-standard facilities45 such as a lack of washrooms and water. Hazara women even had to face difficulties due to the racial profiling46 of the community in the post-quarantine scenario. According to one report, some local doctors in Quetta refused47 to treat Hazara women fearing that they will spread the virus. Similarly, women from Hindu Christian faiths in Pakistan continued to face persecution such as forced conversions and forced marriages during 2020 (details in the Pakistan country section).

In Colombia, women deciding to become an active Christian can face domestic abuse and sexual abuse. A former guerrilla combatant was sexually abused by her comrades when she left the group after she converted to Christianity. Another young woman grew up as a Christian, but abandoned her faith when she met her future husband. She later returned to her faith, whereupon her husband, a judge, began to abuse her, and threatening to end the marriage and to take the children away. For a time she practiced her faith secretly, but when her husband tried to force her to sign a document saying she would never take her children to church, she refused. She lost custody of the children and was forced to give him compensation.48

Footnotes

 

28: https://www.genderandreligiousfreedom.org/
29 For further details on intersectionality of gender and FoRB see: https://www.iirf.eu/site/assets/files/116862/vol9_2016.pdf
30 https://www.opendoorsusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/GSPR-2020.pdf
31 https://www.ids.ac.uk/download.php?file=wp-content/uploads/2020/08/CREID-Briefing-Note-Ideologically- Motivated-Sexual-Grooming-MT-August-2020.pdf#ReligiousMinorities
32 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-54418513 – Hathras Case: Dalit Women are among the most oppressed in the world, 6 October 2020, BBC

33 https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/coe/nepal-4-women-arrested-for-attempting-to-forcefully-convert-people-to- christianity/ Four Women Arrested for ”Attempting to Forcefully Convert People to Christianity, 8 November 2018, World Watch Monitor
34 https://www.csw.org.uk/2019/05/01/press/4321/article.htm – Christians Accused of Proselytism Released Without Bail, 1 May 2019, Christian Solidarity Worldwide

35 https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=22673&LangID=E – see CEDAW report, 19 February, 2018, UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
36 https://www.hrw.org/legacy/backgrounder/wrd/iraq-women.htm
37 (http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/67347/1/WPSIraq.pdf)

38 https://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/USCIRF%202020%20Annual%20Report_Final_42920.pdf.
39 https://www.kurdistan24.net/en/news/4c21093d-a241-416d-997a-3cc8ad3a4576
40 https://english.alarabiya.net/views/news/middle-east/2020/04/20/Iraq-and-its-minorities-face-a-new-challenge
41 https://www.opendoorsusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/GSPR-2020.pdf
42 Ibid, see pp 7-8
43 https://www.ids.ac.uk/opinions/pakistans-hazara-shia-minority-blamed-for-spread-of-COVID-19/
44 https://www.ids.ac.uk/opinions/dire-conditions-for-hazara-shia-pilgrims-during-COVID-19-quarantine-in-pakistan-six- women-share-their-experiences/
45 https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/19/pakistan-coronavirus-camp-no-facilities-no-humanity
46 https://www.ids.ac.uk/opinions/pakistans-hazara-shia-minority-blamed-for-spread-of-COVID-19/
47 https://www.ids.ac.uk/opinions/go-in-disguise-to-ensure-you-receive-medical-treatment-religious-discrimination-in- pakistan/

 

Photo credits: Komar.de




CHINA: Special Weekly FoRB Newsletter (20-26.10.2020)

26.10.20 – Want to keep your temple? Worship Mao Zedong

Amid the nationwide crackdowns on religions, only the venues venerating Chairman Mao are protected from closures and demolitions.

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26.10.20 – Believers tortured and abused to renounce their faith

When members of The Church of Almighty God are detained for practicing their faith in China, they are subjected to various forms of physical and mental torture.

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24.10.20 – Facial recognition cameras installed in State-Run religious venues

More than 200 facial recognition cameras were installed in churches and temples in one Jiangxi Province county. This alarming practice is spreading across China.

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24.10.20 – Tiananmen Square protest supporters punished for 30+ years

Activists and advocates of the 1989 student protest, which was violently crushed by the regime, continue to be monitored and suppressed to this day.

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22.10.20 – Vatican and China renew their agreement

The Holy See admits that “extremely painful situations” are not solved, but claims it is too early to assess the effects of the deal.

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22.10.20 – Clergy ordered to promote the Communist Party in sermons

The government increases censorship on was is said in state-run Protestant churches, demanding pastors and preachers to advocate CCP policies and praise its leaders.

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22.10.20 – State-run protestant churches demolished on bogus pretexts

Even members of government-approved churches find it hard to practice their faith, as authorities throughout China exert increasingly harsh suppression measures.

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21.10.20 – New High School textbooks for patriotic education

The new teaching materials are one more tool to indoctrinate China’s youth by promoting Maoism and slating Western democratic values.

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21.10.20 – House Churches closed as ‘illegal venues,’ believers punished

The CCP eradicates unregistered Protestant venues, harassing and arresting believers, imposing hefty fines on them.

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20.10.20 – Provisional asylum granted to two refugees from China in Kazakhstan

For the first time, authorities admit that ethnic Kazakhs are persecuted in Xinjiang. The two asylum seekers tell their story to Bitter Winter.

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MONTENEGRO: How attacks on religious freedom threaten the Church

– by Evstatije Dragojevic

– The Tablet (25.08.2020) – https://bit.ly/2EM160x – Faiths across the globe are being challenged. This threat is now moving closer, as dark clouds threaten in Europe. Throughout the continent, violations of religious freedom are increasing with believers of all faiths suffering.

I want to tell you about my own country, Montenegro, where moves by the Government against my church – the Serbian Orthodox Church – has provoked a crisis. What is happening in our tiny country discards the modern European concepts of fairness and law. It could set an alarming precedent for larger countries in Europe.

Independent since 2006, Montenegro may be a new country, but it has a long historical tradition – especially through the church. It is one of the oldest Orthodox churches in the world, emerging from the break-up of the Byzantine empire over the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries. Its ministry covers much of the former Yugoslavia and some 80 per cent of Montenegrins profess its faith.

But now the church and its members are under attack, as the government earmarks its property, including sacred churches, for their ownership. Under economic pressure predating the coronavirus, the government has looked for new revenue streams. It looks though they will come at the expense of believers.

This imminent land grab has mostly escaped international scrutiny. Seemingly, the country is on the right path, with incremental moves into the European sphere. Yet these trappings of modernity mask the corruption of basic values taking place.

Last December, under a thin veneer of legality, the government forced a new Law on Religious Freedom through parliament; forced because those members of the house opposed were arrested and held, while the act was passed without a vote against. A state-issued license is now mandatory to practice religion. This, importantly, requires the assets of faith communities to be registered. Though in practice, this only applies to the Serbian Orthodox Church, due to special treaties with minority religions.

In effect, the law wholesale transfers the ownership of church buildings and estates built before 1918 to the state. The onus falls on the church to prove their property rights; if they can’t, the state takes the property. But all arguments and evidence will be placed before an administrative government body (in fact, the same body that questions the ownership) packed with the President’s placemen. There will be no recourse to judicial courts to challenge the decision: the government’s word shall be final.

The consequences do not bear thinking about. We fear it will undoubtedly involve vandalism and destruction of cultural and spiritual artefacts, and the selling off land for redevelopment to build money spinning hotels and tourist facilities. The assets the government seeks have been founded and nurtured over centuries of Christian stewardship by our congregations and communities. They are holy places of Christian worship, monasteries, hostels for the homeless, and farms that feed many hundreds of families each and every day through soup kitchens.

This fear they will be seized extends beyond the clergy, to the faithful and, indeed, to anyone who believes in the property rights, the rule of law and the right of individuals to practice their faith free from harassment. That is why, before the coronavirus lockdown, they came out onto the streets across the country to protest this wrongful law. Sixty thousand alone gathered in the capital Podgorica – some ten percent of the entire population – to urge its recall.

The Government’s push back swiftly escalated. In May a young minister, Father Radovic, was assaulted outside his church by local youths, motivated by Government claims that the Church is a foreign influence. Because we are called the Serbian Orthodox Church, this can unfortunately be made to sound credible in the parliaments of Europe and the corridors of the US Congress. Yet we have had the same name across the Balkans for eight hundred years.

In the same month, a service was led by Bishop Joanikije at the Monastery of Ostrog, one of the most revered sites in Balkan Orthodoxy. Due to coronavirus, the service was just the Bishop and his clergy. The Monastery announced the annual public Saint Basil’s Day street procession was also cancelled. Yet the faithful still came in their thousands. Bishop Joanikije went to see them outside, urging them to return home.

The arrests began in the evening. When parishioners came out in towns and villages to protest our imprisonment, the police turned on them brutally. Then the forces moved on, detaining archdeacons and a further 25 priests.

Last month, more than 300 Montenegrin lawyers signed a petition labelling the law unconstitutional and a breach of human rights. In the UK, politicians across party divides have come together urging their Government to take action and sanction Montenegro. And in the US, members of Commission on International Religious Freedom, a State Department federal government agency, identified the worsening situation in Montenegro.

I appeal to our brothers and sisters in the Catholic Church for your support. Over the centuries, our church has faced persecution from the Ottoman Caliphate to communist Yugoslavia. Today we face a different threat. Instead of the blade of the sword or barrel of gun, we meet our aggressors in the banality of administrative edict. Yet like our Lord, and with your support, we can rise again from these dark times.

Evstatije Dragojevic is the Episcopal Dean to the Bishop of Budimlja and Niksic, Montenegro




CHINA : Special Weekly FORB Newsletter (11-18.08-2020)

17.08.20 – 18 Jehovah’s Witnesses sentenced to years in jail in Xinjiang

 The 18 Jehovah’s Witnesses arrested in Xinjiang have now been sentenced to long jail terms. Lawyers complain of the inhumane conditions of their detention.

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17.08.20 – Hunt for unsanctioned religious materials continues nationwide

Provincial and municipal governments intensify measures to purge from state-run churches all publications that are not approved by the state.

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17.08.20 – More Church of Almighty God members arrested and tortured

Using pandemic restrictions as a pretext to check residents’ identity, authorities hunt down believers from this banned religious group.

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16.08.20 – The story of the lonely Uyghur: he protested every week in the Netherlands, on August 14 he was arrested

Abdurehim Gheni’s 19 relatives disappeared. He wants to know from the CCP where they are.

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16.08.20 – CCP agents beat Australians—in Australia: something should be done

One of the attorneys representing Drew Pavlou documents with exclusive videos and pictures how Chinese operatives got away with their crimes.

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15.08.20 – Several State-run protestant churches demolished in June

 Three-Self churches in Anhui, Henan, and Jilin provinces were leveled to the ground on government orders, bullying and injuring congregation members in the process.

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14.08.20 – World Uyghur congress to IOC: stop the 2022 Winter Olympics in China

 London lawyer Michael Polak submits a formal written complaint to the International Olympic Committee.

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13.08.20 – Fengqiao experience: The CCP revives a Maoist terror strategy

On August 12, the People’s Daily called for a nation-wide revival of one of the most dreaded practices of Chairman Mao’s years, accompanied by more propaganda.

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11.08.20 – Ancient temples converted into revolutionary bases

On President Xi’s orders, local governments across China turn some places of worship into propaganda centers to pay tribute to China’s communist history.

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11.08.20 – Stop Uyghur genocide: an appeal by religious leaders in support of the Uyghurs

As religious leaders and leaders of belief-based communities, we come together to affirm human dignity for all by highlighting one of the most egregious human tragedies since the Holocaust: the potential genocide of the Uyghurs and other Muslims in China.

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11.08.20 – Jimmy Lai arrested, a blow to catholic dissidents in Mainland China

The Catholic tycoon was a main financial supporter of Catholics who refuse to join the government-controlled Patriotic Association.

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