USCIRF to Emphasize Religious Freedom During China Visit

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is currently on a two-week tour in China to promote religious freedom.

Led by USCIRF Chairman Michael Cromartie, the delegation will hold meetings in Beijing, Chengdu, Kashgar, Urumqi, Lhasa, and Shanghai from Aug. 14 to Aug. 28. The high-profile trip of the USCIRF to China was first agreed by the United States and China during the December 2002 US-China bilateral human rights dialogue.

According to Xinhua News Agency, the USCIRF delegation recently met with Standing Committee Vice Chairman of China's National People's Congress, Fu Tieshan, on Wednesday.

Fu, who also serves as the chairman of Catholic Patriotic Association of China and as acting chairman of Bishops Conference of Catholic of China, briefed the guests on China's religious situation and policy on freedom of religious belief.

In March 2005, a new regulation on religions was placed into effect in China. Many Christians and leaders have raised concerns over the threat to the religious freedom of Chinese believers as the government imposes stricter regulations on religious activities in the wake of the rising Falun Gong movement.

The U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, highlighted the call for religious freedom in China in a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing during her last stop of the six-country tour across Asia in March.

During her meetings with Beijing in July, Rice re-emphasized that the USCIRF trip to China has been a high priority for the Bush Administration.

As an independent, bipartisan federal commission, the USCIRF advises the President, Secretary of State, and Congress on how to promote religious freedom and related human rights around the world.

During the USCIRF visit on Wednesday, Fu said China and the United States have maintained friendly exchanges in the area of religion. The committee vice chairman hopes the visit by the U.S. delegation will continue to facilitate bilateral friendly relations.