Americas, Asia - Pacific

US says China intimidates religious leaders from speaking out

Beijing regularly declines to 'approve or postponed U.S. officials’ requests to visit religious sites', says US

Michael Gabriel Hernandez   | 12.05.2021
US says China intimidates religious leaders from speaking out


The US accused China on Wednesday of harassing and intimidating religious leaders to discourage them from speaking to American officials.

"Authorities regularly prevented members of religious communities from attending events at the embassy and consulates general, and security services questioned individuals who did attend," said the US' annual Report on International Religious Freedom.

It charged Beijing with regularly declining "to approve or postponed U.S. officials’ requests to visit religious sites and meet with religious leaders," and noted ongoing reports of deaths of imprisoned religious adherents in custody, as well as torture and abuse in prison.

"There continued to be reports of deaths in custody and that the government tortured, physically abused, arrested, detained, sentenced to prison, subjected to forced indoctrination in CCP ideology, or harassed adherents of both registered and unregistered religious groups for activities related to their religious beliefs and practices," it said.

The CCP refers to the Chinese Communist Party.

The State Department has classified China as a country of particular concern vis-a-vis religious freedoms since 1999.

On India, the congressionally-mandated reported noted continued problems caused by a controversial 2019 citizenship law, known as the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which excludes Muslims from receiving expedited naturalization granted to other faith groups.

It allows fast-tracked citizenship for Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jain, Parsi and Sikh migrants from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

The State Department said none of the more than 100 legal challenges to the law had been heard by the Supreme Court in 2020, and noted reports of "religiously motivated killings, assaults, riots, discrimination, vandalism, and actions restricting the right of individuals to practice and speak about their religious beliefs."

"In January, during anti-CAA protests in New Delhi, an armed crowd stormed a mosque, killed the muezzin, beat the imam, scattered worshippers, and set the building on fire. In September, media reported that a Hindu woman was beheaded for refusing to convert to Islam after marrying a Muslim; two Muslims were arrested for the crime," said the report.

Turning to Russia, the report said Moscow continued to carry out raids on Mormons and cited reports from NGOs that chronicled alleged torture of individuals who were arrested "for exercising freedom of religion or belief with impunity."

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