The United States has raised its concerns about religious repression in China with Chinese officials, said the spokesman for the U.S. State Department.
“We know the conditions are different from region to region, but there are consistent reports of harassment, intimidation, detention of religious beliefs,” spokesman Richard Boucher told Washington D.C.-based ‘Voice of America.’
‘Voice of America,’ an international multimedia broadcasting service funded by the U.S. government, reported last Friday that while more than one-hundred million Chinese practice their faith in groups registered with and controlled by the government, many millions of other believers seek to worship free of government control. In response, Chinese police have closed underground seminaries, temples, and mosques, as well as some Roman Catholic churches and Protestant house churches. Many religious leaders have been jailed. Some have been tortured.
“Technically, anyone who practices religion outside of the state control system is liable to punishment, including administrative detention, sentence to labor camps, or even criminal sentences,” Nicolas Becquelin of Human Rights in China told VOA.
Becquelin said that Chinese are allowed to hold religious beliefs personally. But in terms of activities and church organization, he says, “everything has to be state-controlled.”
Human rights groups have made frequent reports of religious believers who continue to be arrested in China for the peaceful expression of their faith.
According to the U.S.-based Cardinal Kung Foundation, Chinese police reportedly swept through a village in Hebei province looking for Roman Catholic priests who are faithful to the Vatican. The police reportedly detained eight priests and two seminarians taking part in a religious retreat.
Meanwhile, the Voice of the Martyrs says that Chinese authorities have released most of the nearly one hundred Protestant Christians detained July 12th in China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region. But the group claims that at least five people are still in custody. The detained Chinese are Christians who worship in private homes, or so-called “house churches,” because they object to government involvement in religion.
In addition, the Pennsylvania-based China Aid Association reported that three prominent house church leaders were sentenced up to three years in prison for “leaking state secrets.” Their arrest stemmed from a report they made on the suppression of Christians in Hangzhou’s Xiaoshan District in July 2003, in the course of which more than a dozen house churches were destroyed and at least 300 Christians were arrested, with some subjected to physical abuse.
The Chinese constitution says that citizens are guaranteed religious freedom, however, many human rights organizations and religious persecution watchdogs have frequently voiced their concerns on the reported actions of local officials.
Now, according to VOA, “Millions of Chinese look forward to a day when they can practice their faith openly and without government interference.”