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China Refutes U.S. Charges on Religious Freedom




A spokesman for the Religious Affairs Bureau of the State Council issued a statement on October 14 refuting charges by the U.S. State Department's "Annual Report on International Religious Freedom for 1999" against China's policy on religion. The following is the full text of the statement:

The State Department of the United States recently issued its "Annual Report on International Religious Freedom for 1999", which irresponsibly commented on religious affairs in many countries, including China, threw mud at China for no reasons, listed China as a country for "special concern" based on the "the International Religious Freedom Act", and went so far as to threaten China with sanctions.

We are strongly indignant at and resolutely opposed to such unfounded and unreasonable accusations.

The China section of the "Annual Report on International Religious Freedom for 1999" is nothing new, but rumors, distortion, fabrication and imagination with some brand-new packaging, plus some threats as always, to create excuses for the implementation of its International Religious Freedom Act.

We must solemnly point out with justice that in China, freedom of religious belief is a fundamental right to which all citizens are entitled by the Constitution and law and the problem of "religious persecution" does not exist in China. Such fact can not be distorted by anyone in any means.

Chinese citizens enjoy full religious freedom. China is not only a large country in terms of population, it is also a major country in terms of religion, with schools of Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism and others, and a total of 100 million religious adherents among a national population of 1.2 billion.

Religious adherents engage in various religious activities at temples, mosques, churches and individual residences. There are 85,000 places of worship across the country, 300,000 clergymen, over 3,000 religious organizations, and 74 religious seminaries run by those organizations to train clergymen.

All religious organizations operate their own affairs independently, run seminaries to suit their own needs, publish their classical works and other publications, and have service organs for the public interest.

In the case of Christianity, more than 20 million copies of the Bible have been printed in the past ten and more years, making Chinese Christianity the largest school of religion in the world in terms of Bible publication.

Most religious figures praise the fact that this is the best time for all the religions in Chinese history.

The authors of the U.S. State Department's report have put on a masquerade of caring for the religious freedom in other countries, and have been repetitiously producing legislative bills and reports for the alleged purpose of improving religious freedom in other countries.

Faced with the sound conditions of religion in China, they still irresponsibly throw stones at China like a blind man feeling a giant elephant. Can anyone believe they do not have ulterior motives?

Along with hackneyed and stereotyped expressions, the U.S. report chooses bits and pieces with which to criticize China to deny any achievements made by the Chinese government in the field.

Regarding the fact that the Chinese people have the right to believe in religion, a right protected by Chinese law, the report' s authors had to acknowledge the freedom of religious belief among the Chinese on one hand, but repudiated the role of the law to standardize social behavior in China on the other hand.

The U.S. report made the nonsensical charge that the registration of religious places to the Chinese government means strict control of religious groups and their activities.

In fact, the Chinese government strives for better protection for the legitimate rights of religious groups through registration, in accordance with the Chinese law.

It is also an international practice to register social groups. In China, any social group, including religious one, must apply for registration from civil affairs authorities, a practice which is in agreement with the management regulation for social groups.

In accordance with the management regulations for religious ritual places which was promulgated in 1994, appropriate religious activities in ritual places should be protected by the law, and no group or individual may infringe on religious people's legitimate rights or intervene in their affairs.

The regulation also stipulates that all ritual places which meet the legal requirements can be authorized to register. After registration, the ritual place can obtain legitimate status, which is fully safeguarded by the law.

If there are infringements on its legal rights, religious groups and management bodies for religious activities may appeal to governmental administrative organs or even people's courts to seek legal settlement.

Therefore, Chinese religious figures uphold the regulation on registration of religious places. If ordering religious groups to register is a restriction, many nations and regions throughout the world are implementing the very same "restriction."

What is the purpose of the U.S. criticizing the registration regulation, a practice normal in many countries?

In addition, the U.S. report talked nonsense about 30 million Chinese people carrying out their Mass at "home churches". In fact, there are no "house churches" in China.

Christians usually organize religious rituals in families, which is only called a House Meeting. Christians who take part in the House Meeting also join congregations in churches, except for those who are too old or weak. House Meetings are just a supplement to church meetings.

The Chinese government respects these House Meetings and would never intervene.

The authorities do not ask religious believers to register these kinds of gatherings, and they neither intervene in nor restrict their activities.

Thus, the Chinese government has no specific statistics on House Meetings. The U.S. report barely knows the facts about the religious activities of the Chinese people, but rather fabricates stories according to their own daydreams.

After randomly criticizing religious freedom and governmental management in China, the U.S. report pretends to bewail the times and pity the people, asking the Chinese government to revise its laws and regulations and loosen the requirements for registration.

It is rude as well as naive for the U.S. to intervene in the internal affairs of other nations and impose its own will on them.

In today's world, there is no nation with sovereignty that follows up other nations' will or allows them to intervene in its internal affairs.

The report alleges that in China, foreigners' religious activities face more limits and monitorings and that preaching is not allowed in the country.

The fact is that the Chinese government fully respects the freedom in religious belief of all the foreigners within its territory, and protects their normal religious activities.

"The Provision on the Administration of Religious Activities of Aliens Within the Territory of the People's Republic of China,"which was promulgated by the Chinese government in 1994, categorically stipulates that China respects the freedom in religious belief of aliens within its territory, and protects friendly contacts and cultural and academic exchanges of aliens with Chinese religious circles.

It also stipulates that aliens may participate in religious activities at sites for religious activities within the Chinese territory, may preach and expound their scriptures at Chinese sites for religious activities at the invitation of Chinese religious bodies at or above the level of provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities, may hold religious activities attended by aliens at the sites for religious activities approved by the department of religious affairs of the people's government at or above the county level, may invite Chinese religious personnel to hold such religious ceremonies as baptism, weddings, funerals, and Taoist and Buddhist rites, and may carry into the country religious printed matter, religious audio-visual products and other religious articles for personal use.

Also, when China holds large international conferences, sports events, and cultural and academic exchanges, organizers may apply to the Chinese government for designating special religious sites for the religious activities of foreign participants.

During the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995, religious organizations and sites in the city of Beijing received over 10, 000 participants from 103 countries and regions.

In 1998, a U.S. religious delegation led by Rabbi Arthur Schneier, president of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, Archbishop Theodore McCarrick of the Newark Roman Catholic Archdiocese, and Reverend Don Argue, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, visited China and was received by Chinese President Jiang Zemin and Chairman Li Ruihuan of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

During his visit to China the same year, U.S. President Bill Clinton went with his family to the Chongwenmen Church in downtown Beijing to attend Sunday morning services.

As a sovereign state, China has always held that its relations with other countries should grow on the basis of friendship. Aliens conducting any activities, including religious activities, within the Chinese territory should naturally abide by China's laws and regulations, and not undermine the country's public interest, nor interfere in its internal affairs including religious ones, nor preach or spread religious materials to the public.

For those aliens that violate the country's laws and regulations, Chinese law-enforcement departments have every right to punish them according to law. If this is regarded as limiting and monitoring aliens, one would like to ask whether the United States allows aliens to engage in unlawful activities within its territory.

The report also accuses China of "imposing restrictions on construction of new mosques" in Xinjiang, and of having "arrested and executed quite a few Moslems."

In fact, Moslems in Xinjiang have the complete right to enjoy freedom of religious belief, and there are enough mosques in the region to satisfy the religious needs of the Moslems.

Only a few ethnic separatists have been punished by Chinese law enforcement departments for the violence and terrorist activities they have committed, which has nothing to do with their religious belief.

Xinjiang is a region with quite a few ethnic Islamic groups that densely populate part of the region.

Under the system of ethnic regional autonomy, the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region has been established to ensure regional ethnic autonomy, and people in the region fully enjoy their right of religious belief as protected by law.

There are nine million Moslems in Xinjiang, accounting for half of all the Moslems in China, but the number of mosques in the region totals 23,000 and represents two-thirds of the total in China, or one mosque for every 200 Moslems. More than 30,000 Moslems in Xinjiang have gone on the pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia in recent years.

The great majority of Islamic people in Xinjiang and other religious believers there are patriotic and law-abiding and conduct their religious activities as permitted by laws and regulations and government policies.

Generally speaking, the situation in Xinjiang can be characterized as one of stability and unity among the different ethnic groups. Terrorist activities in the past few years such as murders and bombings committed by a very small number of ethic separatists who use Islam as a camouflage have caused great indignation among the Moslems of various ethnic groups who strongly oppose such violence.

In order to maintain stability and unity in Xinjiang and assure the safety and normal life of local Moslems, the local government has stood firmly against religious extremism and has cracked down on violence and terrorist activities in accordance with law, and as requested by the local people themselves.

The effort made by the government, therefore, is fully justified, as separatist activity would in no way be tolerated by any country in the world, and would be dealt with firmly.

The authors of the report, who regard as abnormal the legally justifiable punishment against the very small number of separatists and terrorists, went on to make accusations against China. Judging by their accusations, people can see very clearly what they support and what they oppose.

The report does not mind taking the trouble to list many "individual" issues in a bid to accuse China of conducting what it calls religious persecution.

As a matter of fact, the Chinese government is committed to freedom of religious belief. And the Chinese Constitution and laws provide Chinese citizens full guarantees for freedom of religious belief and legal religious activity, therefore there is no question of an issue of religious persecution.

Under the Chinese Constitution, every Chinese citizen enjoys equal rights and obligations in the eyes of the law, and any person who commits any criminal act is subject to criminal prosecution regardless of their religious belief.

No single person in China has been or will be detained or imprisoned simply because of their religious beliefs or their legal religious activities. On the contrary, stipulations have been made within China's criminal laws saying that any government employee who illegally deprives any citizens of their freedom of religious belief is subject to up to two-year imprisonment, or criminal detention according to the seriousness of the case. But those who use religion as a camouflage for illegal activities will be dealt with firmly according to law.

Some cults have existed in parts of China in recent years whose leading members spread misinformation using religion as a camouflage to deceive the general public, swindle money and property from people, and sexually exploit women. These people are hated bitterly by the general public and religious people. Taking legal action against the leading members according to law is meant to rid the people of a scourge and benefit the community.

As a matter of fact, there is no country in the world which allows illegal and criminal activities in the name of religion. One has to ask why it was quite reasonable for the United States to ban the Branch Davidian cult a few years ago, and Japan to outlawed the Aum Shinrikyo religious cult, while China is being accused of "persecuting religious people" simply because it banned some cults?

While ignoring its own problems, including religious ones, the United States has been making purely fictitious and improper comments about China's religious affairs, willfully vilifying China, and even threatening sanctions and demanding that China amend its laws in a way preferred by the United States.

The key point at issue is the United States using the freedom of religion as a camouflage to grossly interfere in China's internal affairs, which is absolutely unacceptable to the Chinese government and people.

The U.S. government must immediately put an end to interfering in China's internal affairs through the use of the so-called religious issue.

 


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