By BosNewsLife News Center in Budapest with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY (BosNewsLife)– Hungary remained under pressure Wednesday, June 12, to explain its relations with China after expelling the vice-president of the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) on “terrorism charges” and preventing a Budapest meeting dedicated to the religious and political rights of the Uyghur people.
WUC official Umit Hamit Agahi, a German citizen, told Radio Free Asia that he believes Chinese state security services may have provided Hungarian police with “false” information about himself and “triggered alarm” in Hungary.
“Only China calls the WUC a terrorist organization,” he said.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who has been criticized by the European Union for his perceived autocratic policies towards churches, media, courts, central bank and other previously independent institutions, has made clear he wants stronger economic ties with China.
The Chinese government has pressured countries questioning its human rights records.
POLICE DEFENDS ACTION
Hungarian National Police defended the expulsion, saying he had been banned May 30 from entering Hungary due to security concerns.
Umit Hamit Agahi told reporters that during the 12-hour interrogations, he realized that he was being held on suspicion of terrorism and that police had told him he was “a threat to the security of Hungary”, allegedly without providing any evidence.
“This is something unexpected for me and for my organization. We were holding the meeting legally and with the support of the World Federation of Hungarians, which was registered in Hungary,” added the official, who is in charge of WUC’s European affairs.
“I have been living in Germany for the past 19 years, I am a German citizen, and have been working with human rights organizations in the EU [European Union] over the past 10 years. I have gone to Hungary eight times for the past 10 years. I have close links with rights organizations in Hungary. I am no stranger to Hungary.”
Additionally, Hungarian police and disaster response authorities prevented the meeting of the WUC and young Hungarians from four countries, arranged by the World Federation of Hungarians (MVSZ), organizers said.
In a video posted on the internet, MVSZ president Miklós Patrubány said police checked the papers of all delegates at the Budapest Hotel Attila where the visiting Uyghurs were staying. Soon, disaster response authorities reportedly closed the hotel, saying it did not comply with fire regulations.
The MVSZ then offered the use of its headquarters in downtown Budapest, but police went to that location 30 minutes before the scheduled meeting of Hungarian and Uyghur youth was to take place and closed the building as “there had been a bomb threat,” Hungarian media reported.
This wasn’t the first controversy surrounding Hungary’s government. In 2011, Orbán defended police action to block a Budapest demonstration in support of Tibet, during a visit by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.
Hungary is determined to protect state interests when it comes to an official foreign visit, he told parliament at the time. “Freedom of expression is okay, scandals or trouble-making is not,” he said.
Yet, the latest troubles came as another setback for the Uighur people, who claim to suffer ethnic discrimination, oppressive religious controls, and continued poverty and joblessness in China.
Ethnicity is also believed to have played a role in what his supporters view as the harsh sentence given to Uyghur Christian leader Alimujiang Yimiti who is serving a 15-year jail sentence in a Chinese prison for allegedly “providing state secrets to overseas organizations”.
Friends and rights activists have linked the charges to the Christian activities of the 42-year old pastor, a convert from Islam, who has been held behind bars since 2008.
Authorities in China’s troubled northwestern region of Xinjiang rejected an appeal against the sentence and recently curtailed visits of his wife, Gulinuer, who had been able to visit him once a month for 20 minutes, Christians familiar with the case said.
She said she can now only visit him once every three months and for only 10 minutes. His wife had been hoping that she and their two sons could visit him during New Year.
The pastor, whose name has also been spelled as Alimjan Yimit, is held in “arbitrary detention” according to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
China has denied wrongdoing, though Communist officials have expressed concerns about the spread of Christianity in the country. There are an estimated 130 million devoted believers in Communist-run China, many of whom meet in house churches, according to church groups.
(BosNewsLife, the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians, is ‘Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals’ since 2004).
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