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U.S. Department of State, International Religious Freedom Report 2013 – China

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

January 1, 2014

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Executive Summary
The constitution states citizens enjoy “freedom of religious belief” but limits protections for religious practice to “normal religious activities.” The government applies this term in a manner that is not consistent with China’s international human rights commitments with regard to freedom of religion. In practice, the government restricted religious freedom. The constitution also proclaims the right of citizens to believe in or not believe in any religion. Only religious groups belonging to one of the five state-sanctioned “patriotic religious associations” (Buddhist, Taoist, Muslim, Catholic, and Protestant), however, are permitted to register with the government and legally hold worship services. The government’s respect for religious freedom overall remained low during the year. In Tibetan areas and the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) there were particularly serious violations of religious freedom.

The government exercised state control over religion and restricted the activities and personal freedom of religious adherents when these were perceived, even potentially, to threaten state or Chinese Communist Party (CCP) interests, including social stability. The government harassed, assaulted, detained, arrested, or sentenced to prison a number of religious adherents for activities reported to be related to their religious beliefs and practices. There were also reports of physical abuse and torture in detention.

Local authorities often pressured unaffiliated religious believers to affiliate with patriotic associations and used a variety of means, including administrative detention, to punish members of unregistered religious or spiritual groups. In some parts of the country, however, local authorities tacitly approved of or did not interfere with the activities of unregistered groups.

There was societal and employment discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice. Uighur Muslims and Tibetan Buddhists experienced severe societal discrimination, especially around sensitive periods.

U.S. officials at all levels repeatedly and publicly expressed concerns and pressed for the expansion of religious freedom. U.S. officials consistently urged the government to adhere to internationally recognized rights of religious freedom, protested violations of religious freedom, acknowledged positive trends, and met with members of religious communities, including those being persecuted for their beliefs. The embassy protested the imprisonment of individuals on charges related to their religious practices and other abuses of religious freedom. The Ambassador hosted functions for various religious groups and highlighted the importance of religious freedom during visits to XUAR and the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). The Department of State also brought religious leaders and scholars to the United States to deepen their understanding of the role of religion in American society. Since 1999, the Secretary of State has designated the country as a “Country of Particular Concern” (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) for particularly severe violations of religious freedom.