. China News .

Murder trial for 3 monks over Tibet self-immolation
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Aug 26, 2011

Catholics released after arrest in China
Vatican City (AFP) Aug 26, 2011 - A group of about 30 Catholic Chinese arrested last weekend in Northern China's Gansu region were released Friday, Catholic news agency AsiaNews reported.

The priests and church-goers from Tianshui belonged to the "underground" Church which is not recognised by China, and had been put in detention centres, AsiaNews said.

Among them was Tianshui's former bishop, Casmir Wang Milu, who the government intends to replace with one of its own candidates from the State-controlled Catholic Church, without papal approval, the agency reported.

Wang Chengli, a priest in the Heze diocese in the Shandong province, was sentenced on Thursday to three years of "re-education through labour," AsiaNews said.

A Catholic source was quoted as saying the priest had been "condemned for his firmness in refusing to subscribe to the Patriotic Association," a reference to the Chinese government's Catholic Patriotic Association.

The Vatican has been locked in a bitter struggle with Beijing in recent months over ordinations they say are illegitimate. Threats of excommunication have gone unheeded by China, which has said it will continue to ordain bishops.

Last weekend's arrests followed a police raid at the end of July on protestants who also belonged to underground churches, according to Catholic news agency Eglises d'Asie.

More than 20 priests and church-goers were arrested on July 26 during a meeting in Wuhai in Inner Mongolia, the agency said, citing religious freedom campaign group China Aid Association.

Six of them were released shortly afterwards on the grounds of age or ill health but another 15 were imprisoned for "cult practises which threaten State security."

Three monks in a Tibetan region of China will go on trial for murder next week over the death by self-immolation of another monk in March, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported on Friday.

The three have been charged with "plotting, instigating and assisting in" the death of their fellow monk at the Kirti Tibetan Buddhist monastery, Xinhua quoted the Maerkang County People's Court as saying in a statement.

A fourth monk has also been accused of moving and hiding Phuntsog, the man who had set himself alight -- thus preventing emergency treatment and leading to his death, it said.

The young monk set himself on fire on March 16, the third anniversary of anti-government rioting in Lhasa. His death triggered protests, prompting a clampdown by authorities around the monastery in Sichuan province.

At the time, Xinhua quoted a government spokesman as blaming fellow monks for delays to Phuntsog's treatment, saying police had taken him to hospital but other monks forcibly took him back to the monastery and hid him there.

But the New York-based International Campaign for Tibet said that the monks had rescued Phuntsog from police, who had begun beating him after extinguishing the flames, and took him to the monastery before returning him to hospital.

Phuntsog was the second monk at Kirti to set himself on fire since the anti-Chinese riots in Lhasa of March 2008, the bloodiest in Tibet in 20 years.

Xinhua said he was just 16 years old at the time of his death, though reports at the time varied and rights groups put the monk's age at 20 or 21.

Another monk died by self-immolation in Sichuan in August. Campaigners said the 29-year-old at the Nyitso monastery drank petrol before setting himself alight. Police and soldiers surrounded the monastery after his death.

According to the London-based Free Tibet rights group, citing local contacts, that monk was heard to shout just before setting himself alight, "We Tibetan people want freedom", "Long live the Dalai Lama" and "Let the Dalai Lama return to Tibet".

Many Tibetans in China are angry about what they view as increasing domination by China's majority Han ethnic group, and accuse the government of trying to dilute their culture.

China, however, says that Tibetan living standards have improved markedly in recent decades, pointing to its billions of dollars in spending on infrastructure and development projects.

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China backs HK court on sovereign immunity
Beijing (AFP) Aug 26, 2011 - Chinese lawmakers on Friday upheld a decision by Hong Kong's top court that a country cannot be sued there, in a ruling with far-reaching implications for the former British colony.

Hong Kong's court of final appeal ruled in June that the city's justice system could not be used to sue the Democratic Republic of Congo because of China's position that all sovereign states should be immune from prosecution.

The National People's Congress (NPC), China's rubber-stamp parliament, said it had upheld the ruling.

The NPC ruled that Hong Kong's laws on state immunity must "be consistent with the rules or policies on state immunity that the central government has adopted", said Li Fei, deputy director of the NPC's committee on Hong Kong Basic Law.

The case revolves around US-based fund FG Hemisphere Associates which is reportedly trying to reclaim over $100 million from the Congo in a commercial dispute case. The debts were being held in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong, a former British colony which was returned to Chinese rule in 1997, maintains a semi-autonomous status with its own political and legal system, and guarantees civil liberties not seen on mainland China.

The Basic Law, the city's mini-constitution, provides Hong Kong's government with a high level of autonomy except in defence and foreign affairs, in which Beijing has the final say.

Critics have said the decision by Hong Kong, known for its daily protests and vibrant civil society, to seek Beijing's interpretation on the matter undermines the city's judicial independence.

Eric Cheung, an assistant law professor at the University of Hong Kong, said he "respected" the move but cautioned it will have a "negative effect" on Hong Kong's status and reputation as a semi-autonomous region.

He said the decision could also damage Hong Kong's reputation as an international financial hub, which is the base of many multinational companies.

"This will have an adverse impact on the city as an international trade centre because it will set a precedent for all other businesses that come here in the future," Cheung told AFP.

Supporters of seeking Beijing's interpretation said the move was the right one, as sovereign immunity falls under foreign affairs where Hong Kong has no jurisdiction.

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Patient dies in China after hospital staff flee fire
Shanghai (AFP) Aug 26, 2011
A man died during an operation in a Chinese hospital after doctors and nurses fled during a fire, leaving him to suffocate in thick smoke, state media and officials said Friday. The 49-year-old patient had been in a traffic accident and was having an amputation in the Shanghai hospital on Wednesday when a fire broke out in one of the operating rooms, the official Xinhua news agency said. ... read more

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