U.S. State Department Reports on Religious Freedom

By Brooks Boliek for Radio Free Asia

Note: The 2015 Report on International Religious Freedom for China is available here: https://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/irf/2015/eap/256097.htm

The Obama Administration criticized China for the nation’s restrictions on religious practices that have caused the demolition of Christian churches, contributed to the self-immolation of Buddhist monks, and abuse and harassment of Uyghur Muslims.

In its comprehensive annual look at the state of religious freedom in more than 200 countries in 2015, the U.S. State Department said that the Chinese government ignores its constitutional mandate allowing citizens the “freedom of religious belief” and instead restricts religious practices it deems a threat to the nation or the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

“Over this past year, there continued to be reports that the government physically abused, detained, arrested, tortured, sentenced to prison, or harassed adherents of both registered and unregistered religious groups for activities related to their religious beliefs and practices,” the report states.

In its International Religious Freedom Report for 2015, the State Department said it was difficult to tell exactly what constitutes discrimination based on religion alone because religion and cultural identity are closely entwined.

Of Tibetan Buddhists and Uyghur Muslims

“Because religion, culture, and ethnicity are often closely linked, it was difficult to categorize many incidents of societal discrimination as being solely based on religious identity,” the report said.

“Religious and ethnic minority groups, such as Tibetan Buddhists and Uyghur Muslims, experienced institutionalized discrimination throughout the country both because of their religious beliefs and their status as ethnic minorities with distinct languages and cultures,” the State Department found.

In particular it found that tensions “between Uyghur Muslims and Han Chinese migrants continued, exacerbated by government policies discriminating against Uyghurs” as “many hospitals and businesses would not provide services to women wearing veils.”

The report also found that similar “tensions also continued among ethnic and religious groups in Tibetan areas, particularly between Han Chinese and Tibetans, and, in some areas, between Tibetans and Hui Muslims.”

While it appeared that Tibetan Buddhists and Uyhgur Muslims often bore the brunt of religious persecution in China, Christians are also suffering.

“Some Protestant Christians reported employers terminated their employment due to their religious activities,” the State Department said. “A Christian lawyer in Zhejiang Province was fired by his employer due to his religious activities,” and that “some unregistered churches reported that their property leases were broken by landlords pressured by the government.”

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