We remember Michael Parks, who covered China for the Baltimore Sun and as the Bureau Chief for the Los Angeles Times.
U.S. Department of State, International Religious Freedom Report 2014 – China
The U.S. Congress mandates that the State Department prepare an annual report on religious freedom around the world.
The Chinese government continues to perpetrate particularly severe violations of religious freedom. For Tibetan Buddhists and Uighur Muslims, conditions are worse now than at any time in the past decade. Independent Catholics and Protestants face arrests, fines, and the shuttering of their places of worship. Practitioners of Falun Gong, as well as other Buddhist, folk religionist, and Protestant groups deemed “superstitious” or “evil cults,” face long jail terms, forced renunciations of faith, and torture in detention, and the government has not sufficiently answered accusations of psychiatric experimentation and organ harvesting. Based on these systematic, egregious, ongoing abuses, USCIRF again recommends that China be designated as a “country of particular concern,” or CPC, in 2014. The State Department has designated China as a CPC since 1999.
While the Chinese Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, the constitution protects only “normal” religious activities, which is not defined. Religious groups and individuals believed to pose a threat to national security or social harmony, or whose practices are deemed superstitious, cult-like, or beyond the vague legal definition of “normal,” face severe restrictions, harassment, detention, imprisonment, and other abuses. Despite this, millions of Chinese manifest their beliefs openly in officially “recognized” religious venues or within the seven government-approved religious organizations. Senior government officials regularly praise the positive role played by religious communities in society. In September 2013, President Xi Jinping
publicly expressed his hope that China’s “traditional cultures” of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism can help staunch the country’s “moral decline.” New directives seem to allow approved religious groups to conduct charitable activities. These are positive developments that were unthinkable two decades ago.
Nevertheless, the government continues to see the growth of religious communities which resist its oversight as potential threats to social stability, security, or its core interests. There continues to be suspicion among Communist Party officials about the growth of religious belief and practice. Government authorities continue to provide strict ideological control and oversight of government-supported religious groups; praise religious groups who resist “foreign infiltration;” prohibit religious affiliation among Communist Party members and some government employees; and restrict the amount of religious materials available, including on the Internet.