China Rebukes US for Listing Countries in Violation of Religious Freedom

China has rebuked the United States on Monday for its list of countries that violate religious freedom. Last week the US State Department released a list of violators, which included China, as well as North Korea, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia and Sudan among others where its people do not have access to freedom of faith and belief.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, Jiang Yu, said, "The United States' action violates the basic rules of international relations, and constitutes a rude intervention in the internal affairs of another country. We demand the United States respect the truth, and stop interfering in China's internal affairs under the pretext of religion."

The statement was posted on China's foreign ministry website.

The US Ambassador for International Religious Freedom, John V. Hanford III, explained that China had progressed "a little" but "certainly has not made the sort of progress that we need to see in a systemic way to remove them" from the list.

The American State Department's assessment of China's religious freedom stated: "China maintains tight control over all religions and has cracked down hard on groups not sanctioned by the ruling Communist Party. Those who ... attend underground Protestant or Catholic churches routinely face detention, harassment and sometimes imprisonment."

In addition, the report commented that China's government attempts to control religious organisations to restrict any group becoming an authority outside that of the control of the government, and the Chinese Communist Party.

Contradicting this, however, Jiang said that the Chinese government guaranteed the right of religious freedom, as clearly stated in the country's constitution. Jiang added that China was strongly opposed to the US report, and that various ethnic and regional groups enjoyed "broad and adequate freedom of religious belief".

Currently, Chinese Christians are only authorised to worship in state-monitored Protestant or Christian groups, which state they have up to 11 million believers.

However, millions more attend underground churches, that avoid the monitoring of the state. The total membership of underground churches is rumoured to be as large as 60 million members. But the leaders and followers of these underground churches are known to be hunted by government officials, who jail them when found.

It is not just Christians who feel this oppression, however, but similar sanctions are imposed on temples and mosques for other religions in China.

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