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ICC Note: The International Religious Freedom Report released this week listed several East Asian nations as having governments which routinely suppress the freedom of religion.  Government authorities are blamed for a range of human rights abuses, not only for Christians, but also for other religious minorities.

By Richard Finney

10/14/2015 China, Myanmar, Vietnam, and Laos (Radio Free Asia)

Religious freedoms were harshly restricted in China and Myanmar over the past year, with Chinese authorities removing hundreds of crosses from Christian churches in a coastal province and the government in Myanmar limiting the rights of Muslims and other religious minorities, the U.S. State Department said in an annual report released on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, in Vietnam, government authorities continued to harass unregistered religious groups, especially those suspected of involvement in political activity, while in Laos national authorities failed to prevent abuses by officials in remote areas of the country, according to the report.

In China, the State Department’s 2014 International Religious Freedom Report said, government authorities “tortured, physically abused, detained, arrested, sentenced to prison, or harassed a number of religious adherents” belonging to both registered and unregistered groups.

Hundreds of crosses and steeples deemed illegal structures were forcibly removed from churches in Zhejiang province, and in some cases a number of prominent churches, including Sanjiang Church in Wenzhou city, were demolished, the report said.

Local authorities also pressured religious believers to join state-controlled religious associations and used coercive measures, including confinement and abuse in detention centers, to punish members of unregistered groups, the State Department said.

Restrictions meanwhile continued in Uyghur and Tibetan minority areas in China, the State Department said, with bans imposed on the wearing by Muslim Uyghurs of Islamic veils or other clothing associated with “religious extremism,” and limits placed on the numbers of monks and nuns allowed to enroll in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries.

“Although authorities permitted some traditional religious ceremonies and practices” in Tibetan areas, authorities also often “restricted or canceled religious festivals, [and] at times forbade monks from traveling to villages to conduct religious ceremonies,” the report said.

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