According to the recently released International Religious Freedom Report, the Chinese government continues to exercise control over religion and restrict the activities and personal freedom of religious adherents.
In 2016, there continued to be reports that the Chinese government physically abused, detained, arrested, tortured, sentenced to prison, or harassed adherents of both registered and unregistered religious groups for activities related to their religious beliefs and practices, including members of unregistered Christian churches.
A pastor of an unregistered church and his wife were reportedly buried alive while protesting the demolition of their church; the wife died while the pastor was able to escape. There were also reports of the disappearance of a Catholic priest, and the death of a rights activist for Hui Muslim minorities and others that the government said was suicide. And Falun Gong reported dozens of its members died in detention.
The Chinese government continued to enact and enforce restrictions on religious practices of Uighur Muslims. The government sought the forcible repatriation of Uighur Muslims from foreign countries, many of whom sought asylum in those countries on the grounds of religious persecution.
According to media and NGO reports, three Tibetan men, one monk and two laypersons, self-immolated during 2016 and three Tibetan nuns committed suicide in protest of restrictive government policies, including those restricting religious freedom. In July 2016, Sichuan provincial officials demolished over 2,000 residences and expelled 2,000 or more monks and nuns from Larung Gar, the world’s largest Tibetan Buddhist institute.
Authorities in Zhejiang Province continued their destruction of Christian buildings that began in 2014. Over 2,000 structures, including 600 crosses, had been destroyed by the end of 2016. Many Zhejiang pastors and congregants openly resisted the campaign, resulting in the detention, prosecution, or conviction of several church leaders and activists.
The United States continues to urge the Chinese government to respect internationally recognized rights of religious freedom and release all those imprisoned for their religious beliefs.