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. ♦