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The Christian Post – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released on Wednesday its Policy Focus on China , raising questions on Chinese law and its upholding of human rights and religious freedom.

The issued report was based on a two-week delegation to China in August when the Commission met with representatives of government-sanctioned religious organizations and senior Chinese officials – including Vice Premier Hui Liangyu – that oversee religious affairs and the protection of human rights.

Marked as a high priority for the Bush Administration, the trip to Beijing, Urumqi, Kashgar, Chengdu, Lhasa and Shanghai was the result of several years of diplomatic effort by the United States government that was agreed to during the December 2002 U.S.-China bilateral human rights dialogue.

“The Commission continues to find that the Chinese government systematically violates the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief, contravening both the Chinese constitution and international human rights norms,” said USCIRF Chairman Michael Cromartie in a released statement. “Indeed, the room for political openness, public activism, and greater civil and individual freedoms is narrowing in China .”

USCIRF also raised questions and concerns on the management of religious affairs in China , Chinese policies concerning religious education of minors and unregistered religious organizations, new regulations on cults and religious affairs, the unique situations in Tibet and Xinjiang, and the situation for North Korean defectors in China , according to the report.

Cromartie, who led the Commission’s trip to China , specifically noted the limited freedom and human rights protections among certain religious groups.

“Particularly vulnerable are Catholics and Protestants engaged in unregistered activities, Tibetan Buddhists, Uighur Muslims, and members of religious and spiritual movements such as the Falun Gong,” he said as he listed specific cases of the arrest of church leaders of underground Protestant and Catholic churches.

“There is a fundamental misapprehension on the part of Chinese officials about what freedom of religion or belief means under international instruments,” he continued. “They have mistaken – cynically or inadvertently – the proliferation of state-sanctioned and state-controlled religious expression with the guarantee of the individual right of freedom or religion or belief. The growth of religious sentiment within the spaces sanctioned by government does not constitute freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief.”

The Commission called U.S. officials to raise the reported concerns at the highest levels as it made several recommendations at the release of the report to strengthen U.S. human rights diplomacy with China .

According to a USCIRF release yesterday, China remains as a “country of particular concern” (CPCs) along with seven other countries that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice designated for this year. Countries that have not yet warranted their removal from the list include Burma , China , Eritrea , Iran , North Korea , Saudi Arabia , Sudan and Vietnam …[Go To Full Story]