New Report Criticizes China over Continuing Human Rights, Religious Freedom Violations

An annual report by a U.S. congressional panel found China has failed to improve the overall human rights condition.

An annual report regarding human rights in China released last week by a U.S. congressional panel found that the country has failed to improve the overall condition in 2004. In particular, the report criticized China’s control over religions and media.

"Citizens who challenge state controls on religion, speech, or assembly continue to face severe government repression," begins the 193-page report released on Tuesday by the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC).

"These detentions and policies violated not only China's Constitution and laws, but also internationally recognized human rights standards," the report stated further.

Established in 2000, the 20-membered CECC exists to monitor human rights and the development of the rule of law in China and to submit an annual report to the United States President and Congress.

In its recent report, the panel highlighted the "increased government restrictions on Chinese citizens who worship in state-controlled venues or write for state-controlled publications."

Beginning Mar. 1, 2005, new regulations on religion became effective in China that restrict worship activities to state-monitored locations and place "anyone who compels citizens to believe in or not believe in any religions" at risk of facing criminal charges, among other restrictions.

It was reported that the new laws were set to protect "normal" religious activities in the wake of the rising Falun Gong movement, which the Chinese authorities have defined as a cult. However, because the laws approve of only "religious activities expressly authorized by the state through a system of compulsory licensing and mandatory inspections," human rights watchdogs say it could indirectly affect the faithful.

During the time of the CECC report, the panel noted that "the Chinese government continues to harass, abuse, and detain religious believers who seek to practice their faith outside state-controlled religious venues.”

“Religious believers who worship within state-controlled channels are subject to government regulation to all aspects of their faith," it added.

The panel condemned the Chinese government’s schemed campaign against Protestants as hundreds of believers associated with house churches have been intimidated, beaten, or imprisoned.

"China's leaders will not achieve their long-term goal of social stability and continued economic development without building a future that includes human rights for all Chinese citizens," said CECC chairman Senator Chuck Hagel, a Republican from Nebraska.

In addition, the CECC raised concern over the weakening freedom of speech and freedom of expression in China.

"Chinese authorities have tightened restrictions on journalists, editors, and Web sites, and continue to impose strict licensing requirements on publishing, prevent citizens from accessing foreign news sources, and intimidate and imprison journalists, editors, and writers," the report stated.

On Sept. 25, China’s State Council Information Office and the Ministry of Information Industry announced that there would be new laws implemented to control the information posted on the internet.

Religious news with articles criticizing the government’s religious policies are expected to be banned, sources reported. According to Times Online UK, the Chinese government has already blocked many Chinese Christian websites.

In response to all the accusations on breach of human rights, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Kong Quan, on Wednesday expressed resolute opposition.

Kong said the report "wantonly interferes in China's internal affairs," according to China’s official state-run Xinhua news agency.

The spokesman urged the United States to take effective measures to eliminate the negative impact of the report.

Senator Hagel, however, said in the CECC’s released statement, the report is "an honest report that takes a comprehensive look at human rights and rule of law in China."

The panel therefore urges the U.S. President and the Congress to support the development of the freedom of religion in China, which it described as "universal and essential," by continuing U.S. diplomacy.

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