China, eight others included in US list of nations with worst religious freedom

“China prosecuted family members of self-immolators, imprisoned and tortured Falun Gong practitioners, continued its harassment of members of house churches and unregistered Catholic bishops and priests, and sought the forcible return of ethnic Uighurs who were seeking asylum overseas,” US State Department said in its 2013 International Religious Freedom Report.

Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are in the list of US’ Countries of Particular Concern. Nations that do not uphold rights of their people including the freedom of religion sow the bitter seeds of instability and violence and extremism, US President Obama said.

The report says “North Korea again stood out for its absolute prohibition of religious organizations and harsh punishments for any unauthorized religious activities. Countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran and Sudan put severe restrictions on members of religious groups that did not conform to the state-approved religions while in China, Cuba, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, religious activity was only lawful if explicitly authorized by the state.”

Secretary of State John Kerry noted that “nations that protect this fundamental freedom will have the partnership of the United States and the abiding commitment of the American people as we seek to advance freedom of religion worldwide.”

China strongly oppose to US’ report. “The Chinese government protects Chinese citizens’ freedom of religious belief in accordance with law, and Chinese citizens are fully entitled to such freedom provided under the law.”

“The US side completely disregards the fact, and distorts and attacks China’s policies on religion by issuing such report. We are strongly opposed to that and have made solemn representations to them. We urge the US side to discard its political prejudice and stop interfering in China’s internal affairs under the pretext of religion,” China’s Foreign Ministry said.

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