This is an excerpt from a forthcoming book BUYING THE DRAGON'S TEETH:
How Your Money Empowers a Cruel and Dangerous Authoritarian Regime in China and Undermines Jobs, Industries and Freedom Back Home.
The Communist Party of China has always regarded religion as a dangerous and unacceptable challenge to its exclusive right to the obedience and even devotion of the Chinese people. Although the Chinese constitution guarantees freedom of religion, in actual practice every religious group has to undergo an onerous registration process and their activities are rigorously monitored. Printing and distribution of religious publications are strictly controlled by the government. Any group seen as attempting to move away from the strict and intrusive controls the Chinese government exercises is immediately charged with "criminal activities" or "illegal gatherings." This invariably results in police action, with routine physical abuse, torture and long-term imprisonment of religious leaders and practitioners. Official demolition of churches, monasteries and mosques are not uncommon.
Human Rights Watch/Asia has published a useful handbook on the subject, China: State Control of Religion, in addition to other reports on this issue. The handbook is essential reading for a fundamental understanding of the means by which the Communist Party of China suppresses, controls and perverts religious beliefs. [...]
On February 11, 2002, Freedom House in Washington, D.C. released a report analyzing seven Chinese government documents. These secret documents, issued between April 1999 and October 2001, detail the goals and actions of China's national, provincial and local security officials in repressing religion. They provide irrefutable evidence that China's government, at the highest levels, aims to repress religious expression outside its control and is using more determined, systematic and harsher criminal penalties in this effort. [...]
"These documents provide irrefutable evidence that China remains determined to eradicate all religion it cannot control, using extreme tactics," said the Center for Religious Freedom (Freedom House) Director Nina Shea. [...]
On August 8, 2003, the Commission on International Religious Freedom (a U.S. federal agency) called off its proposed visit to China after the Chinese authorities imposed "unacceptable last-minute conditions." A visit to Hong Kong by the group was also blocked by China. Michael K. Young, the chairman of the commission said: "It further raises the concern that just years after the handover, Hong Kong's autonomy is already seriously in doubt." In light of the fact that China had previously permitted similar Congressional and State Department bodies on religious freedoms to visit China, these restrictions could reflect a hardening of Beijing's anti-religion policies and a new attitude of rejecting the concerns of the outside world on such matters.
Popular Indigenous [Group]
On February 8, 2001, The New York Times reported that seven more members of the outlawed Falun Gong spiritual group had died in custody, raising the known death toll to 112. Four reportedly died in forced labor camps, while two were apparently injured during force-feeding to break up a hunger-strike attempt. As of June 27, 2001, Falun Gong claimed that some 234 practitioners had died suspicious deaths in custody or immediately following release. To date many thousands of members have been detained (for varying periods), while at least ten thousand are serving lengthy terms in forced labor camps. An unknown number have been committed to psychiatric detention centers. Beatings and torture of those arrested are routine and have resulted in many deaths. The massive and brutal crack down of the Falun Gong - the intensity of the campaign blitz (in nationwide public demonstrations and mass meetings) with even far-flung regions having to demonstrate their active antagonism to the sect - recall the Maoist campaigns of the 50s and 60s.
By September 2001, the Falun Gong movement in China, with the rare exception of a determined group or two, had been forced underground. In addition to the harsh and intensive crackdown, a sophisticated nationwide propaganda campaign successfully demonizing the spiritual group and its leader, Li Hongzhi, and extolling the benign treatment afforded Falun Gong followers in "bright, cheerful" reeducation camps, ensured that the Chinese public would go along with the government's crackdown of this [group]. Yet as Human Rights Watch put it: "The internal propaganda campaign not withstanding, Chinese officials continued to violate the right to freedom of association, assembly, expression, and belief; freedom from torture, ill-treatment and arbitrary detention; and the right to due process and a fair trial."
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