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10/5/04 - CHINA’S REPRESSION OF RELIGION - 2004-10-01

In the latest U.S. State Department report on religious freedom, China is again listed as one of the most serious violators. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell says the report singles out eight countries of particular concern:

“We are re-designating five countries that, in our judgment, continue to violate their citizens’ religious liberty: Burma, China, Iran, North Korea, and Sudan. We are also adding three additional countries to this list: Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, and Vietnam.”

John Hanford is U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom. He says that in China, “the government continues to repress Tibetan Buddhists, Uighur Muslims, Catholics faithful to the Vatican, underground Protestants, and Falun Gong” practioners:

“Many religious believers are in prison for their faith and others continue to face detention, beatings, torture, and the destruction of places of worship. Many observers believe that in recent months, China has engaged in a crackdown against some independent religious groups.”

The State Department report says that the Chinese government has been trying to restrict and regulate religious practice “to prevent the rise of groups that could constitute sources of authority outside of the control of the government and the Chinese Communist Party. Despite these efforts at government control, membership in many faiths is growing rapidly.”

One way the Chinese government tries to limit the growth of religious groups is by making it difficult for young people to worship. Ambassador Hanford says this is especially true in Muslim areas, such as China’s Xinjiang province:

“. . .there are signs posted on the mosques, which say, ‘No one under eighteen allowed.’ Now, the Chinese government has promised. . .to change this policy and that people of faith of all religions are going to be able to have their children involved in their places of worship and in religious instruction. But in Xinjiang, this is certainly not the case.”

The U.S. is committed to the protection of religious freedom. “Defending the sacred ground of human conscience,” says Secretary of State Powell, “is a natural commandment to all mankind.”