Meanwhile, in China
On persecution of Muslims, Christians, and the Falun Gong.
By Ann Noonan, Laogai Research Foundation
November 9, 2001
China's subdued but inevitable acceptance into the WTO has taken a backseat to more immediate concerns involving the war against terrorism. As the Bush administration focuses on building coalition partners, the State Department has dutifully issued its congressionally mandated Report on International Religious Freedom. Press coverage of religious-persecution issues in Afghanistan has overshadowed the attention given in this annual report to so many of the other countries that tolerate and sponsor religious persecution — like China.
Though signing on with the antiterrorism coalition, China has only stepped up its own persecution of Muslims.
Under the subheading of Restrictions on Religious Freedom, the report confirms: "During the period covered by this report, the Government's respect for religious freedom and freedom of conscience worsened, especially for some unregistered religious groups and spiritual movements such as the Falun Gong. The Government intensified its repression of …the Falun Gong. ...Separately, under the guise of urban renewal and cracking down on unregistered places of worship, authorities in Wenzhou, Zhejiang Providence, razed an unknown number of churches and temples in late 2000.."
Media coverage of horrific prison conditions for Falun Gong members confirms the report's findings. The Chinese press reported about Mr. Yau, a 50-year-old man who was arrested and imprisoned on April 28 for distributing Falun Gong material. While in prison, "He was forced to assemble leaves for Christmas trees and inmates would be hit five times for every leaf that failed to pass the quality inspection test. He said he witnessed an inmate being slapped in the face 25 times for making five substandard leaves and an additional two slaps for forgetting to say 'thank you' after receiving the
One Falun Gong practitioner, Chen Gang, worked for the Beijing office of Carlsberg Brewery. He was arrested, tortured, and remains in prison for being a Falun Gong practitioner. In response to the State Department report, Mr. Chen's sister, Ying Chen — a native-born Chinese woman who now lives in New Jersey-stated: "The appalling crimes that have been committed toward Falun Gong practitioners, and that have gone unpunished and actually rewarded have been far more horrendous than the notorious acts of the Japanese soldiers when they invaded China!"
The government of China has arrested many leaders of the unofficial Roman Catholic and Protestant "house church" movements. Provincial officials confiscated or destroyed up to 3,000 unregistered church buildings and Buddhist shrines in one district alone, in southeastern China last November.
Government control over the official Protestant and Catholic churches has increased, as officials interfere in the training, ordination, and assignment of clergy.
In March, 2001, Chinese officials refused to meet with U.S. diplomats from the Department of State's Office of International Religious Freedom, during their visit to China to examine the situation of religious liberty. Nevertheless, U.S. officials in Washington and Beijing continued to protest Chinese government actions to curb religious freedom, including thedestruction of unregistered places of worship in Wenzhou, the arrests of followers of Falun Gong, the crackdowns on Tibetan Buddhists and Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang, and the arrests of Christian ministers and believers.
The lack of improvement in religious freedom in China was a key factor in the United States's decision to introduce again a resolution critical of China's human rights record at the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva.
At a time when the world's attention is focused on Afghanistan, we must hope that this administration will not forsake its principles elsewhere. As President Bush said earlier this year, "It is not an accident that freedom of religion is one of the central freedoms in our Bill of Rights. It is the first freedom of the human soul — the right to speak the words that God places in our mouths. We must stand for that freedom in our country. We must
speak for that freedom in the world."
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