Anniversary Highlights Rise in Religious Persecution in China


A decade after China banned the Falun Gong, the Chinese government shows no inclination to reverse its abusive policies toward religious minorities. Freedom House calls upon the Obama Administration to elevate the priority of this critical issue in its ongoing engagement with the Chinese regime.

China's freedom of religion score declined in the 2009 edition of Freedom in the World, Freedom House's annual survey of political rights and civil liberties. The change was linked to the Chinese government's crackdown on Falun Gong practitioners, Uighur Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists and underground Christian groups in the lead up to last year's Beijing Olympics. The recent unrest among Uighurs in Xinjiang, as well as last year's violent suppression of protests in Tibet, demonstrates the increasingly hostile environment that numerous Chinese faith communities face.  

"The Chinese government's appalling treatment of religious minorities is yet another glaring example of why the country cannot be viewed as a modern state on the world stage," said Jennifer Windsor, Freedom House executive director. "China is one of the world's top offenders when it comes to repressing religious freedom, with tens of thousands of believers facing imprisonment, torture and intimidation for simply exercising their right to freely worship."

Although constitutionally recognized, religious freedom is sharply restricted in China. All religious groups are required to register with the government, which regulates their activities via state-sponsored associations. Christian congregations that operate without state approval are subject to raids and detentions, while other religious groups are banned outright. The government targets some faith communities in smear campaigns that seek to vilify them in the Chinese media.

Religious adherents are often sentenced to "reeducation through labor" camps and prisons, with terms of up to eight years. Believers are often forced to violate or renounce basic tenets of their faith. In February, Chinese authorities seized Christian attorney and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Gao Zhisheng, who was known for defending religious minorities. In another case, Beijing musician Yu Zhou died in custody last year after being detained for possessing Falun Gong literature. His wife, Xu Na, remains in prison.

Security forces in Tibet and Xinjiang routinely engage in arbitrary arrest, detention, torture, and execution without due process, punishing even nonviolent protests against Chinese rule. Tibetan Buddhists and Uighur Muslims face military curbs on freedom of movement and official control of their religious practice. Religious adherents from numerous Chinese faith communities are often forced to violate or renounce basic tenets of their faith.

Since 1999, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has recommended that China be designated as a Country of Particular Concern, or CPC. China has been classified as a CPC by the U.S. State Department since 2000.

China is ranked Not Free in the 2009 edition of Freedom in the World, Freedom House’s annual survey of political rights and civil liberties, and in the 2009 version of Freedom of the Press.

To learn more about China, read:

Freedom in the World 2009: China
Freedom of the Press 2008: China
Undermining Democracy: China

Freedom House, an independent nongovernmental organization that supports the expansion of freedom in the world, has been monitoring political rights and civil liberties in China since 1972.

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