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ICC Note:

New U.S. report shows religious intolerance in China, as well as seventeen other countries.

11/17/2010 China (CNN) – Religious freedom remains under threat in China, especially for followers of the Dalai Lama and Muslims in the west of the country, the U.S. State Department said Wednesday in a major report.

China harassed members of religions Beijing does not recognize, and disbarred, harassed and imprisoned lawyers who tried to defend them, the State Department said.

And there were “credible reports” that Beijing tried to force Tibetan Buddhists and Uighur Muslims to return to China from abroad because of their activism for religious freedom, the U.S. said.

Only Buddhists, Taoists, Muslims, Catholics and Protestants are allowed to practice their religions legally in China.

There was no immediate response to the report from China.

China is one of eight nations designated a “country of particular concern” for religious freedom by the United States, along with Myanmar (also known as Burma), Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan.

Christians, Hindus and Sikhs, as well as Muslims whose practices don’t satisfy the government or society, suffer “intolerance in the form of harassment, occasional violence, discrimination, and inflammatory public statements,” the report said.

Washington also had limited praise for China, along with criticism.

“The government supported the social service work of registered religious groups and allowed some foreign faith-based groups to provide social services,” it said.

Foreign preachers were allowed into the country, and there were articles about religious freedom in official Chinese media, the State Department said.

The State Department list is similar to one released earlier this year by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), and to a report last year by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

More than two out of three people around the world live in countries with high or very high restrictions on religion, the Pew Forum concluded.

Promotion of religious freedom is a core objective of U.S. foreign policy, the State Department says in the report, adding: “The right to believe or not to believe, without fear of government interference or restriction, is a basic human right.”

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