The United States Department of State released its 2005 Country’s Report on Human Rights Practices, citing human rights violation in China.
"The United States and other free nations have a duty to defend human rights and help spread democracy’s blessings," wrote U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in the preface. "We must help countries develop the democratic institutions that will ensure human rights are respected over the long term…And we must always stand in solidarity with the courageous men and women across the globe who live in fear yet dream of freedom."
China was described in the report as an authoritarian state which continues to maintain a "poor" human rights record. The nation of 1.4 billion was cited for violations including imposing "restrictions on religious freedom, control of religious groups, and harassment and detention of unregistered religious groups." The report also highlighted the country’s detention, coerced confessions through torture, reeducation, and force labor of prisoners.
"I think the report raises some question as to the religious freedom situation in China," says Todd Nettleton, Voice of Martyrs USA director of news services. "There is persecution in China and Voice of Martyrs does monitor it. When I read this report, I think constantly of Cai Zhuohua and others who have been arrested for leading the underground church movement."
All religious organizations are required to register their places of worship, the U.S. report states. According to new religious regulations in effect since March last year, the government reserves the authority to define which "religious activities are‘normal’ and therefore lawful." Though the clergy does not need to be approved by the government, the name of the individual is required to be reported to the authorities.
The report added that some groups were pressured into registering, while others were rejected from registration. Several groups avoided registration, worshipping in private instead. The government maintains that it refused some groups only because the latter did not meet the facility requirements. International human rights monitors, including the Oslo-based Forum 18, deny such claims stating that in similiar situations, the government often failed to give an explanation.
Treatment of protestant and catholic house churches varies in different regions, the report continues. Some gatherings numbering into the hundreds have taken place under the full knowledge of the authorities. In other areas, local authorities often disrupted church gatherings of a few family members and friends. Nonetheless, House churches are more likely to face repression when membership starts to grow.
The printing of the Bible and other religious literature remains restricted to government-approved operations.
In a November 2005 case, mentioned in the 'Respect of Civil Liberties Section,' police arrested prominent house church leader, Cai Zhuohua, along with his wife and brother-in-law, for printing Bibles and other Christian literature without government authorization. The pastor currently faces a prison term of three years for "illegal business practices."
The section of the report also detailed other cases in the past year including the May crackdown on hundreds of house church members from various house churches in Jilin Province. Last July, 70 Christians were detained in Sui County, Henan Province.
"Many more Protestants and Catholics [from]…non-registered churches are arrested with their churches destroyed. These are not fairytales, they are facts," says Bob Fu, president of the China Aid Association. "There is all this documentation. It is time to have an honest assessment and acknowledgement of this happening. We want to see more progress [with] human rights."
To see the U.S. States Department Report on China, click here.