Indian Muslims hold a placard displaying a picture of China's President Xi Jinping as they protest in Mumbai on Nov. 12 against the Chinese government's treatment of Uyghur minorities. (Photo: AFP)
Benedict Rogers, the Catholic co-founder and chief executive of Hong Kong Watch, is staging a 24-hour fast and hunger strike on Christmas Eve in solidarity with prisoners of conscience and persecuted people throughout China.
The British rights activist and journalist has published open letters to Chinese President Xi Jinping and “all peoples suffering under the Chinese Communist Party’s repressive rule” outlining 12 demands for the regime and the international community.
Rogers had originally intended to hold a 12-hour protest in a cage outside the Chinese embassy in London on Christmas Eve. However, due to new Covid-19 restrictions in the UK capital, he postponed that plan.
His 12 demands focus on a range of human rights concerns in China:
— Free Hong Kong and all Hong Kong political prisoners, especially Jimmy Lai, Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow, Ivan Lam and the 12 Hong Kong youths imprisoned in Shenzhen
— Stop Uyghur genocide
— Stop atrocities in Tibet
— Stop persecution of Christians and Falun Gong in China
— Stop forced organ harvesting
— Free Gui Minhai, the Chinese-born Swedish national abducted from Thailand and serving 10 years in prison in China
— Free Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, the two Canadian hostages detained in China
— Free Li Ming Che, a Taiwanese human rights activist jailed in China
— End slave labor in global supply chains and say #NoGenocideTrade
— End torture in China
— To the free world — stop #CCP bullying
— To the free world — buy Australian wine and stand up to CCP bullying
“I cannot be with my mother this Christmas due to the pandemic. But there are many people throughout China who are separated from their families and loved ones because of the Chinese Communist Party regime’s inhumane repression,” said Rogers.
“This Christmas there are people in prison in Hong Kong and throughout China who can’t be with their parents, spouses, wives, relatives and friends — and worse, are languishing in dire conditions and subjected to physical and mental torture and slavery. I cannot, in good conscience, enjoy Christmas celebrations without remembering my Hong Kong, Tibetan, Uyghur, Christian, Falun Gong and Chinese dissident brothers and sisters.
“The very least I can do is sacrifice a few hours of my Christmas Eve in a symbolic gesture of solidarity and to call on the world to speak up for them and to confront the Chinese regime’s atrocious human rights violations. I hope others will join me around the world, at least in spirit, in these demands.”
In his open letter to Xi Jinping, Rogers says the purpose of the action is “to let the peoples of China — and especially those imprisoned by your regime — know that they are not forgotten and not alone. And as they sit in their prison cells or concentration camps in different places across China this Christmas Eve, I hope they may know in their spirits that there are people in the free world speaking their names, calling for their release, ensuring that the world does not ignore their cries: Free Jimmy Lai, Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow, Ivan Lam, Andy Li, free the 12 Hong Kong Youths jailed in Shenzhen, free Gui Minhai, free Li Ming-che, free Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, free Pastor Wang Yi … and all the others whose names we do not know or cannot record here.”
He adds: “In addition to all the individual prisoners of conscience across China, there are the big picture tragedies that keep my soul and conscience awake at night too: the genocide of the Uyghurs, the atrocities in Tibet, the persecution of Christians, Falun Gong practitioners and other religions, the repression of civil society, lawyers, bloggers, journalists, whistleblowers and dissidents, the broken promises and dismantling of freedom in Hong Kong, the barbaric forced organ harvesting, torture and slave labor. These things must stop.”
In a call to the international community, Rogers says he wants to awaken the world.
“Your regime, Mr. Xi, not only represses its people, it threatens the free world. But we must not allow this to continue. Your regime is a bully, Mr. Xi, and if there’s one thing every kid in the world knows in the school playground, it is to stand up to bullies. So this Christmas I urge everyone everywhere around the world — after fasting or hunger striking with me — to buy as much Australian wine as you can, and ONLY Australian wine, and enjoy it.”
Rogers was referring to the bitter trade dispute between China and Australia. Beijing slapped huge tariffs on Australian wine after the Australian government called for an independent inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus that spread from the Chinese city of Wuhan.
Rogers, who writes for UCA News, co-founded Hong Kong Watch in 2017 after being denied entry to Hong Kong on the orders of the regime in Beijing.
He is also the co-founder and deputy chair of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission and a member of the advisory board of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), the advisory board of the Stop Uyghur Genocide Campaign and the advisory board of the International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China (ETAC).