China, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam slam U.S. religious freedom report
Three countries, namely China, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam slammed recently a U.S. government religious freedom report which included two of them, China and Saudi Arabia, among eight Countries Of Particular Concern regarding religious freedom.
Vietnam was not included among the eight cited in the U.S. State Department’s annual International Religious Freedom Report, but was nonetheless mentioned for its treatment of Catholics in detention, including an ailing Catholic priest.
Religious groups backed by China’s government said the report was simply an attempt to smear the country’s image, and denied all of the report’s findings.
“The U.S. report … attempted to smear the image ofChina. The Chinese government has…protected the legal rights and interests of religious people,” a statement from five government-controlled religious associations said, according to the AFP.
“We feel greatly disturbed as the US has tried to interfere in China’s domestic affairs by targeting religion and create chaos among religious people in a bid to harm social harmony,” the AFP reported.
Legal activists and religious scholars in Saudi Arabia also censured the report, and said the US should stop acting as ‘world police’ by meddling in other countries’ internal affairs.
Dr. Muflah Al Qah’tani, chairman, National Society for Human Rights, KSA told Gulf News, “There is a need for those who prepare the report to be objective because there is much focus on individual cases, which are generalized in case of the country. The report ignores reference to any positive or reformatory steps taking place in the KSA.”
Vietnam also rejected the report, and Foreign Ministry spokesman Luong Thanh Nghi told the government-controlled newspaper, Nhan Dan, that the report had “biased assessments” and “erroneous” information, according to World Community.
Nghi claimed that Vietnam’s constitution protects religious freedom and claimed that the nation’s practice of these rights has gained international recognition.
Especially troubling records
The U.S. State Department International Religious Freedom report covers the second half of 2010, and said that China and Saudi Arabia have especially troubling religious freedom violation records, while Vietnam has a “mixed record.”
The report cited methods of active repression in these and other countries, including the use of torture and violence against religious groups, laws on blasphemy and apostasy, restrictions on religious expression and anti-Semitism.
In China, some 500 Protestants were imprisoned in the past year, according to a report by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.
China was also cited for imprisoning dozens of Catholic priests who did not register with the government, and for destroying places where Christians meet—all of which China denies.
Perhaps the highest incidence of persecution of Christians in China which has gained publicity internationally is that of Shouwang Church in Beijing, which has not been allowed to meet since Easter. (See http://theundergroundsite.com/index.php/2011/06/more-members-of-shouwang-arrested-in-china-on-eighth-week-showdown-16180/).
Saudi Arabia has been cited for disallowing the public practice of any faith except Islam. News reports have cited imprisonment of Christians, including two Pentecostal Indian nationals who were jailed in Saudi Arabia for six months on trumped up, faith-related charges. (See http://theundergroundsite.com/index.php/2011/07/2-christians-released-from-saudi-jail-after-six-months-imprisonment-16808/).
In the case of Vietnam, the freedom report cited issues of religious harassment in provinces and villages, including the treatment of detainees arrested for protesting the closure of the Con Dau Parish Catholic cemetery, and the re-imprisonment of Catholic activist, Father Nguyen Van Ly who is frail after enduring a number of strokes while in detention.
Media reports often cite harassment, repression, and pressure on Christians and other people of different faiths to coerce them to renounce their religious beliefs.
Also mentioned in the report as Countries Of Particular Concern are Myanmar, Eritrea, North Korea, Sudan, Iran and Uzbekistan.