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U.S. Department of State, International Religious Freedom Report 2010 – China, November 17, 2010

The U.S. Congress mandates that the State Department prepare an annual report on religious freedom around the world.
November 17, 2010

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Executive Summary
The constitution states that Chinese citizens "enjoy freedom of religious belief." It also bans the state, public organizations, and individuals from compelling citizens to believe in, or not believe in, any religion. The constitution and laws protect "normal" religious activities," which are overseen by the five (Buddhist, Taoist, Muslim, Catholic, and Protestant) state-sanctioned "patriotic religious associations." By law only they may register religious groups and places of worship. Chinese Communist Party (CCP) members are discouraged from participating in religious activities. The government permits proselytizing in registered places of worship and in private settings. Proselytizing in public, unregistered places of worship, or by foreigners is not permitted. Some religious or spiritual groups are outlawed, including the Falun Gong. Other religious groups, such as Protestant "house churches" or Catholics loyal to the Vatican, are not outlawed, but are not permitted to openly hold religious services unless they affiliate with a patriotic religious association. In some parts of the country, authorities have charged religious believers unaffiliated with a patriotic religious association with "illegal religious activities" or "disrupting social stability." Punishments for these charges range from fines to imprisonment.

During the year the government increased the severe religious repression in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR). Following unrest in July 2009 authorities pledged to crackdown more on "illegal religious activities," which included unauthorized religious instruction and wearing religious clothing. Authorities temporarily closed some mosques in the XUAR. During the reporting period the government's repression of religious freedom remained severe in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) and other Tibetan areas. In other parts of the country, the government tightened controls on religious groups during "sensitive periods" such as the 60th anniversary of the founding of the PRC, the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, and the Shanghai Expo. During these periods, some house church groups reported that government authorities pressured them to stop meeting, while others reported no bans on regular meetings.

Both Uighur Muslims and Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns reported increased societal discrimination around these sensitive periods, including being denied lodging by hotelkeepers.

In its 2009-2010 National Human Rights Action Plan (NHRAP), the government stated that it would "encourage and support religious circles in launching social welfare programs [and] exploring methods and channels for religions to better serve society and promote the people's well-being." The central government supported the social service work of registered religious groups by publicly stating the positive role that religious groups can play in society. Certain overseas faith-based aid groups were allowed to deliver services in coordination with local authorities and domestic registered religious groups. Public discussion of house churches in official media and at academic conferences also increased.

The Department of State, the U.S. embassy in Beijing, and U.S. consulates general in Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Shenyang, and Wuhan consistently urged the government to expand the scope of religious freedom in keeping with the rights codified in the constitution and internationally recognized norms. U.S. officials condemned abuses and acknowledged positive trends. U.S. officials in the country and Washington met with religious believers, family members of religious prisoners, and religious freedom defenders. The U.S. embassy protested the imprisonment of individuals on charges related to their religious practice. Religious freedom was one of the main issues discussed during the May 2010 U.S.-China Human Rights Dialogue. U.S. officials encouraged the government to address specific policies that restricted the freedom of religion of Tibetan Buddhists and Uighur Muslims. Since 1999, the Secretary of State has designated the country a "Country of Particular Concern" (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) for particularly severe violations of religious freedom.

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