US: Religious Freedom on decline in China, Worse in Tibet

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“In China, the government’s overall level of respect for religious freedom declined in 2010 and has worsened this year. The repression of Tibetan Buddhists and Uighur Muslims continues,” said Michael H Posner, Assistant Secretary of State at the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labour. Posner was speaking on the release of the second half of the 13th Annual International Religious Freedom Report on Tuesday by the US State Department.

In its executive summary, the report says about China: “Only religious groups affiliated with one of the five state-sanctioned “patriotic religious associations” (Buddhist, Taoist, Muslim, Catholic, and Protestant) are permitted to register, hold worship services, and apply to offer social services. In October 2010 authorities prevented a large number of Christian leaders from unregistered churches from traveling to participate in the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization in South Africa and reportedly subjected invitees to confiscation of passports, beatings, surveillance, and temporary detention. The government continued to implement measures that strictly regulate religious activity in the XUAR, including restricting private hajj pilgrimages and the wearing of Muslim headscarves in some areas. The government’s repression of religious freedom remained severe in the Tibet Autonomous Region and other Tibetan areas, particularly during “sensitive periods,” such as the Shanghai World Expo and the Asian Games.”

The report says that the situation in China and particularly in the ethnographic Tibet is among the worst. It includes China among eight “Countries of Particular Concern” guilty of particularly severe violations of religious freedom. The other seven countries are Burma, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Uzbekistan.

Chinese Reaction

China on Wednesday slammed the U.S. report saying it firmly opposes the US intervention in China’s domestic affairs by issuing such a report.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu made the remarks at a regular press briefing.

“Chinese people across all ethnic groups enjoy the full freedom to practice religious beliefs in accordance with the law,” Jiang said.

Jiang also urged the commission to “abandon its prejudices, respect facts and stop intervening in China’s domestic affairs by means including issuing reports.”

The report on Tibet

On Tibet the report says “control over religious practice and the day-to-day management of monasteries and other religious institutions continued to be extraordinarily tight,” with monks and nuns having reported that Chinese government restrictions continued to interfere with their ability to carry out the teaching and practice of Tibetan Buddhist religious traditions.”

It further notes that “patriotic” education campaign at monasteries with “legal education” of monks and nuns as an increasingly major theme had become a “routine part of monastic management.”

The report claims that authorities often force monks and nuns to denounce the Dalai Lama and study materials praising the leadership of the CCP and the socialist system. They “also pressured monks and nuns to express allegiance to the government-recognised 11th Panchen Lama,” it adds.

Tibetan Buddhists, apparently as a result of government propaganda, “continued to face societal discrimination, including, for example, being denied rooms at hotels in large cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, and Chengdu”, the report says.

Referring to the pervasiveness of the religious repression, the report says, “Local authorities frequently pressured parents, especially those who were CCP members or government employees, to withdraw their children from monasteries in their hometowns, private schools attached to monasteries, and Tibetan schools in India.”

The report also refers to the restrictions that US diplomatic personnel faced from Chinese authorities during official visits to the Tibetan Autonomous Region, curtailing their “ability to talk openly with persons in Tibetan areas.”

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in her remarks at the release of the report, “As we release this report, we reaffirm the role that religious freedom and tolerance play in building stable and harmonious societies.”. She further said, “In China, Tibetan Buddhists, Uighur Muslims, “house church” Christians all suffer from government attempts to restrict their religious practice.”



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