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14:30 Oct 30 2009

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China slams U.S. for "interference"
09:16, October 28, 2009  

China Tuesday denounced a U.S. congressional report on Tibet's religious status, urging Washington to stop interfering in China's internal affairs.

The report, released by the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China on October 16, said Chinese government forces Tibetans to convert to other religions, and that the talks between Beijing and the Dalai Lama have cooled.

"The biased report by the so-called commission ignores the facts and confuses right and wrong," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said Tuesday in response. "We urge the commission to stop interfering in China's internal affairs and undermining China- U.S. relations under the pretext of the Tibet-related issues."

A similar report was released by the U.S. State Department Monday, naming eight countries, including China, with severe violations of so-called religious freedoms over the past year.

The annual report on religious freedom, which covers the period from July 1, 2008, to June 30, 2009, said that China's Constitution only protects "normal religious activities" and Chinese officials have wide latitude to interpret the meaning of normal.

Chinese "officials continued to scrutinize, and in some cases interfere with, the activities of religious and spiritual groups," it said, adding that the Chinese "government's repression of religious freedom remained severe" in the Tibet Autonomous Region and the XinjiangUygur Autonomous Region.

In response to these accusations, the Xinhua News Agency said, "The Chinese government has made it clear that China is a country that embodies many religions, and the government's policy on religion has been widely accepted by the Chinese people."

"The Chinese government is against interference and irresponsible remarks by some Western forces in other countries in the name of religion," the agency said, adding that the 36th article of China's Constitution stipulates that Chinese citizens enjoy religious freedom.

Xinhua also accused the U.S. report of "distorting the just actions by the Chinese government to maintain social stability and safeguard the territorial integrity of Tibet and Xinjiang as a repression of religious freedom, based on inaccurate evidence from overseas media and anti-China organizations."

Besides China, the report also listed North Korea, Iran, Myanmar, Sudan, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan as countries with severe religious repression.

On religious freedom in North Korea, the report said, "Genuine religious freedom does not exist. An estimated 150,000 to 200,000 people were believed to be held in political prison camps, some for religious reasons. Prison conditions are harsh; torture and starvation are common."

On Iran, the report claimed that "respect for religious freedom in the country continued to deteriorate. … Government-controlled broadcast and print media intensified negative campaigns against religious minorities."

Source: Xinhuanet

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