Report: China Persists in 'Egregious' Religious Freedom Violations

China continues to engage in severe violations of freedom of religion, according to the latest annual report on religious freedom.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) once again recommended Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to designate the communist state as a country of particular concern (CPC) upon the release of this year’s recommendation for CPC designation, the Commission’s Watch List, and the Commission’s 2006 Annual Report. CPC designation is given to countries for ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom.

Since 1999, the Commission has recommended China to be designated as a CPC. According to the report, Chinese government officials continue to control, monitor, and restrain the activities of all religious communities including “house church” Protestants and “underground” Roman Catholics. Moreover, prominent religious leaders and adherents alike continue to suffer from confinement, torture, disappearances, imprisonment, and subjection to other forms of ill treatment due to their religious beliefs.

China’s government has pressured religious groups to register and, in practice, affiliate with one of the seven government-sanctioned “patriotic religious organizations,” reported USCIRF. Groups that resist pressure to register have been shut down and their leaders detained, fined, and even forced to face criminal prosecution.

USCIRF’s annual report notes that many of the congregants of the unregistered South China Church, including its pastor, remain in jail facing serious charges and are said to be tortured and badly treated in prison. In August 2005, some 40 people of the South China Church were reportedly detained in Hubei during a religious training meeting.

The government is said to intimidate, extort, harass, detain, and close unregistered Protestant groups in China. It also continued to perform large-scale raids of house church meetings in various parts of the country.

Unregistered Roman Catholic churches in China, which maintains allegiance to the Vatican, are also oppressed by the Chinese government. More than four Catholic bishops or priests are under arrest, imprisoned, or detained, according to the report.

Reasons for resisting registration include the following: having to provide the government with the names and contact information of their congregants; having to receive approval from the relevant patriotic religious organization on leadership decisions; and having to inform that organization about religious activities and programs. Religious leaders also reported that patriotic religious organizations sometimes interfere in doctrinal decisions and require them to resist from teaching on certain subjects or presiding over certain religious rituals.

The Chinese government also tightly controls religious activities and places of worship, according to reports.

During an unprecedented two-week visit to China in August 2005, USCIRF confirmed with religious affairs officials in Xinjiang the policy that forbids minors from participating in any religious activity before completing nine years of compulsory education.

Besides recommending that China remain on the CPC list, the Commission offered recommendations on U.S. policy toward China including the following: end human rights abuses in China; build an existing effort to improve the rule of law in China; strengthen international coordination for technical assistance programs; expand U.S. outreach and public diplomacy in Tibet and Xinjiang; enhance the U.S.-China bilateral human rights dialogue; and addressing the conditions of North Koreans in China.