US slams China’s ‘extreme hostility’ towards religious freedom in new report, citing ‘abuse’ of Uygur Muslims in Xinjiang

24-Jun-2019 Intellasia | AFP | 6:02 AM Print This Post

The US government on Friday condemned China’s “intense persecution” of religious faiths, days before the two countries’ leaders were expected to meet in Japan during the G20 summit.

“The Chinese Communist Party has exhibited extreme hostility to all religious faiths since its founding,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at the release of the “2018 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom”. “The party demands that it alone be called ‘God’.”

This year’s report departed from its predecessors by dedicating a separate section of its China chapter to Xinjiang, Pompeo said, to document “the staggering scope of religious freedom abuses” in the region. Past reports singled out only Tibet, Hong Kong and Macau with separate sections.

“I had the chance to meet with some Uygurs, but unfortunately most Chinese Uygurs don’t get the chance to tell their stories,” the top US diplomat said.



He was referring to his meeting in March with Mihrigul Tursun, a Uygur who has spoken publicly in the United States about what she said was widespread torture in China’s prisons for the minority group, and relatives of prisoners in the internment camps.

Pompeo’s remarks came as US vice President Mike Pence postponed a speech that was expected to criticise China’s human rights record.

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Pence’s speech, originally expected to be delivered on Monday, was delayed because of “progress in conversations” between US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, according to a White House statement.

Friday’s report went to great lengths to document Beijing’s security and religious crackdown in Xinjiang, citing media and INGO reports.

“Since April 2017, the government detained at least 800,000 and possibly more than 2 million Uygurs, ethnic Kazakhs and members of other Muslim groups, mostly Chinese citizens, in specially built or converted detention facilities in Xinjiang,” the report said.

Beijing “subjected them to forced disappearance, torture, physical abuse and prolonged detention without trial because of their religion and ethnicity,” it added.

The report also said Chinese authorities had maintained “extensive and invasive security and surveillance”, partly to gain “information regarding individuals’ religious adherence and practices”.

The Chinese government has faced a growing international outcry in the past year over its crackdown on Uygurs in Xinjiang. But it has bristled at any criticism of its actions and insists the camps have been “necessary” measures to combat “religious extremism and terrorism”.

Chinese officials and state media portray the camps as “vocational training centres” where Uygurs and other minorities learn Chinese language, laws and job skills while living a “colourful life”.

Highly controlled tours that have been given to foreign diplomats and journalists have included the spectacle of Uygurs giving carefully rehearsed singing and dancing performances. But the propaganda offensive has failed to quell critics.

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China’s constitution grants citizens “freedom of religious belief”, but the officially atheist Communist Party has long kept a tight grip on the practice of faith in the country.

Officially, people are only allowed to worship in the state-sanctioned assemblies and spaces of five formally recognised religions: Buddhism, Taoism, Catholicism, Protestantism and Islam.

The past few years have seen the country’s already limited religious freedom squeezed further as the party under Xi moves to “sinicise” religion and clamps down on underground religious activities that previously had been somewhat tolerated.

“China has declared a war on faith,” Sam Brownback, the US ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, said at a media conference.

“We’ve seen increasing Chinese government abuse of believers of nearly all faiths and from all parts of the mainland,” he said.

Friday’s report also highlighted Beijing’s crackdown on Christianity, including a large-scale shutdown of house churches and a ban on online sales of the Bible. Some Buddhist and Taoist temples and religious sites have also been shut down or sealed off.

The report also accused Chinese authorities of continually harassing and intimidating religious leaders to dissuade them from speaking with US officials.

In one instance, authorities “interrupted a meeting between the abbot of a prominent Tibetan Buddhist monastery and the Chengdu Consul general, quickly removing the abbot from the scene”, the report said.

In November, Pompeo redesignated China as a “Country of Particular Concern” under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, an annually reviewed status China has had since 1999.



Category: China

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