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United Nations
Issue 37: UN Rebuts China for its “Cult” Stigmatization  
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UN Rebuts China for its "Cult" Stigmatization

The 65th annual United Nations (U.N.) General Assembly meeting
held at U.N. headquarters in New York, consisting of 192 member countries.

On Thursday, October 21, 2010, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Prof. Heiner Bielefeldt drew the world's attention, once again, to China's persecution of Falun Gong. He specifically denounced China's stigmatization of Falun Gong and some other "small communities" as "cults," during his presentation at the 65th U.N. General Assembly, held in New York.

Special Rapporteur Bielefeldt said, "Small communities, such as Jehovah's Witnesses, Baha'is, Ahmadis, Falun Gong and others are sometimes stigmatized as 'cults' and frequently meet with societal prejudices which may escalate into fully fledged conspiracy theories."

This is Prof. Bielefeldt's first report to the U.N. General Assembly since he took the position as Special Rapporteur in August 2010. Ms. Asma Jahangir previously held the position. In his 15-minute presentation to the 192 member states, he criticized the government of China for its systematic persecution of and attitude of "intolerance" towards belief groups, including Falun Gong.

His speech was reported to have "irritated" the delegation of China. The delegate responded with their usual demanding tone and repeated the communist party's position that the "correct response" is to eradicate Falun Gong.

The international media described China as being "irritated" yet again. This reaction accords with former reports of this kind. For example, after the U.N. Committee against Torture (CAT) published their China torture report on November 21, 2008, news media including the New York Times, BBC, VOA, and RFI unanimously described the government of China as being "irritated." Through this, the raspy and aggressive nature of the Communist party has been well exposed to the international community.

The U.N. Special Rapporteurs' reports are among the most highly regarded documents on the status of human rights in concerned countries. The annual reports are based on case investigations carried out over the years, and the responses by the governments in question. They often generate heated debate during U.N. human rights sessions.

Prof. Bielefeldt's findings might also be largely based on the mandate's previous investigation on Falun Gong allegations, which China itself often declared that they are jailing its own citizens for practicing Falun Gong and view it as a crime that will threaten the nation's stability.

Ms. Jahangir, former Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, has raised the concerns of the persecution of Falun Gong since 2001. She called on the government of China to comply with international law and U.N. conventions.

In Ms. Jahangir's 2010 report, "While the circumstances under which the deaths occurred differ, all the victims were Falun Gong practitioners and they all died under the supervision of law enforcement officers or soon after their release from custody."

The former Special Rapporteur also noted, Human Rights Committee member Rosalyn Higgins "resolutely opposed the idea that States could have complete latitude to decide what was and what was not a genuine religious belief. The contents of a religion should be defined by the worshippers themselves."

The German human rights and law professor, Special Rapporteur Bielefeldt, has done extensive studies on religions and was the director of the German Institute for Human Rights for a numbers of the years. His debut at the General Assembly notified the world that he has already begun his monitory on the countries such as China.

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