China's Foreign Ministry Rejects US International Religious Freedom Report

( [email protected] ) Sep 24, 2008 07:48 AM EDT

On Sept. 19, the US Department of State released the International Religious Freedom Report 2008, which designated China and seven other countries as “Countries of Particular Concerns” (CPCs). According to Chinese-state media Xinhua web, China’s Foreign Ministry said that it “meddled with China’s internal affairs.”

In the report, it stated that the Chinese government intensified its repression of religious freedom, which included the harassment of house church groups in Beijing from government authorities in the lead up to the 2008 Olympic Games. According to China-based sources and Media, municipal authorities in Beijing closed some house churches or asked them to stop meeting during the 2008 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. During the reporting period, officials detained and interrogated several foreigners about their religious activities and alleged that the foreigners had engaged in "illegal religious activities" and cancelled their visas.

Moreover, the report stated that there was little evidence that regulations introduced in 2005 on religious affairs improved the situation of religious freedom; they defined only government-approved practices and faiths as normal or legitimate. Unregistered Protestant churches continued to report that their applications for registration were rejected without cause. "Underground" Catholic bishops also faced repression, in large part due to their loyalty to the Vatican, which the government accused of interfering in China's internal affairs.

However, the report pointed out that China has taken steps to improve its religious freedom by continuing to emphasize on the role of religion in promoting a "harmonious society," allowed the Patriotic Religious Associations to expand their cooperation with religious groups in other countries, and funded the building of some new places for worship by registered religious groups. The Government also allowed foreign and domestic religious groups to increase cooperation on religious education and charitable work. The Government has granted approval for an increasing number of religious books to be published by officially approved publishers.

In the wake of the U.S. State Department’s report, which was released last Friday, Jiang Yu, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, said in a statement that “China is strongly dissatisfied and resolutely opposed to the U.S. accusation in its religious freedom report”, according to Xinhua.

"It made groundless criticism on China's religious policy and situation of religious freedom," Jiang said. "It violated the basic norms guiding international relations and interfered with China's internal affairs."

Contrary to the U.S. Department of States’ report, the spokesperson said the Chinese government protected the citizens' freedom of religious belief in accordance with laws and Chinese people of all ethnic groups enjoyed full freedom of religious belief according to laws.

She demanded the U.S. side stop making indiscreet remarks on other countries' religious affairs, stop releasing such reports and stop meddling in China's domestic affairs under the pretext of religion.

Currently, besides China, the countries that are designated as CPCs are Burma, North Korea, Iran, Sudan, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, and Uzbekistan

To view International Religious Freedom Report 2008, please click here.