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China Protests US Criticism Over Religious Freedom

ICC Note: China ’s upset that America is learning the truth about their officially-sanctioned worship.

9/21/07, China , Beijing (AFP) — China on Thursday expressed its “firm opposition” against a US government report which warned of deteriorating religious freedoms in the Communist country.

“The section related to China continues its groundless criticism of China ‘s religious and ethnic policies, this … blatantly interferes with China ‘s internal affairs,” a Chinese foreign ministry statement said.

” China expresses its strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition.”

The US State Department’s annual report on worldwide religious freedoms published last week said China expelled more than 100 foreign missionaries in the spring of 2007.

Some rights groups alleged that it was part of a “government-initiated” campaign to tighten control of Christian house churches ahead of the Olympics next year, the report said.

There were also “credible reports of deaths due to torture and abuse” involving practitioners of the Falun Gong spiritual group who “continued to face arrest, detention and imprisonment,” it said.

But China said it respected its citizens’ religious freedom.

“It is the Chinese government’s long-term basic policy to respect and protect its citizens’ religious freedom, it is a fact that cannot be denied or twisted,” the foreign ministry statement said.

“We require the United States to immediately stop using religious issues to interfere with China ‘s internal affairs and instead do more to promote Sino-American mutual understanding and trust.”

Protestant and Catholic Christians in mainland China are only allowed to worship in officially-sanctioned churches, but many choose to worship in the unregistered so-called underground churches.

The official Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association exists alongside the underground church, which counts about 10 million faithful who remain loyal to the Holy See.

Rights groups say those who remain loyal to the Vatican often suffer persecution, with detentions of bishops common.