China Lashes Out Against U.S. Over Religious Freedom Report

AP Photo/Didi Tang
AP Photo/Didi Tang

China once again has its hackles up over a U.S. report criticizing the country’s violations of religious freedom, and is insisting that America stop interfering in China’s internal affairs under the pretext of defending religious liberty.

“We call on the United States to respect the facts and stop attacking China’s religious policies by issuing such reports,” said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying at a press briefing Thursday.

China’s complaints come just days after an announcement that the Chinese Communist party is preparing intensified restrictions on Christian churches, according to the Party’s official newspaper on religious issues, Zhongguo Mingzu Bao.

The U.S. State Department released its annual International Religious Freedom Report on Wednesday, which sharply criticized China’s crackdown on Christian churches. The U.S. Secretary of State has continuously designated China a “Country of Particular Concern” (CPC) for “particularly severe violations of religious freedom” from 1999 to the present.

The report noted the case of the Christian pastor, Zhang Shaojie, who was sentenced to 12 years in prison on charges regarding his advocacy on behalf of his church community.

The report also commented on “the removal of hundreds of Christian crosses from churches in Zhejiang Province throughout the year.”

Some of the government measures against churches went beyond the removal of crosses and steeples, the report stated, and “a handful of prominent churches were demolished, including the Sanjiang Church in the city of Wenzhou that was leveled in April despite efforts by its parishioners to form human shields to protect it.”

Security officials frequently interrupted outdoor services of the Shouwang Church in Beijing and detained people attending those services for several days without charge, the report said.

Hua insisted that Chinese law protects citizens’ religious liberty according to its laws.

The three forces of separatism, extremism and terrorism have posed severe threats to social stability and people’s safety, she said, adding that China’s fight against these forces is key to maintaining national sovereignty, security, social stability and regional peace.

The spokeswoman accused the U.S. of employing double standards as well as of making irresponsible remarks regarding other countries.

According to a Reuters report, under President Xi Jinping, China is conducting the worst domestic crackdown on human rights in two decades and much of this is against Christians. Nearly 1,000 rights activists were detained last year alone—almost as many as in the previous two years combined.

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