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China rejects latest U.S. report on religious freedom

May 17, 2009

North-West Asian Weekly
May 14, 2009

BEIJING (AP) -- On May 5, Beijing said a U.S.
report criticizing the state of China’s religious
freedom was biased and groundless.

China sharply restricts religious practices and
controls activities of churches and mosques, the
report from the Congressionally backed U.S.
Commission on International Religious Freedom said.

"Religious activities are tightly controlled and
some religious adherents were detained,
imprisoned, fined, beaten, and harassed," said
the commission’s 2009 annual report, which was released last week.

China allows people of different faiths to
practice their religion but demands that they do
so in state-backed churches and mosques.

"It is a fact that the Chinese government
protects its citizens’ freedom of religious
belief according to law, and every ethnic group
in any part of China enjoys full religious
freedom," Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said in a statement.

"The attempt by the U.S. Commission on
International Religious Freedom to smear China
with the report will never succeed," Ma said.

The report said China remained on a list of
"countries of particular concern." Examples of
other countries on the list include Nigeria,
Myanmar, Iran, Iraq, and North Korea.

The report pointed to China’s efforts to make
Buddhist monks and nuns pledge loyalty to Beijing
and denounce the Dalai Lama, the exiled leader of
Tibet who the government accuses of trying to
split the Himalayan region from the country. It
said that those who refuse have been expelled
from their monasteries, imprisoned, and tortured.

Similarly, Muslim clerics in Xinjiang in western
China have been forced to undergo political
retraining in order to retain their licenses, the
report said. Like Tibet, there is an independence
movement in Xinjiang that the authorities are trying to stamp out.

The commission said Washington should include
concerns about China’s religious freedoms in its
bilateral discussions at the highest level and
continue to push to be allowed to set up
consulates in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, and in
Urumqi, the regional capital of Xinjiang.
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