US religious freedom report alleges violations in China, Iran

Public TV English
Public TV English
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WASHINGTON : The US State Department on Monday (local time) released its annual report on religious freedom around the world and raised concern over violations in China and Iran.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that most oppressive nations around the world are growing even more dire. “Governments in many parts of the world continue to target religious minorities using a host of methods, including torture, beatings, unlawful surveillance, and so-called re-education camps,” he said.

Blinken underscored abuses against the predominately Muslim Uyghur minority group in the Xinjiang province of China, a country one senior State Department official described as “one of the worst abusers of human rights and religious freedom in the world.”

The report accused Beijing of jailing as many as 10,000 or more people in 2022 in a widening campaign of repression against religious belief meant to bring all theological activity under the Chinese Communist Party’s control.

The estimate of those imprisoned in the country ranging “from the low thousands to over 10,000” is one of many contained in the State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report.

“The People’s Republic of China seized, imprisoned, and banished predominantly Muslim Uyghurs to re-education camps. They continue the repression of Tibetan Buddhists, Chinese Christians, and Falun Gong practitioners – many of whom are fleeing the PRC’s abuses,” said Blinken.

The US has previously determined that Beijing’s treatment of the Uyghurs amounts to genocide and crimes against humanity, and the report, which covers the year 2022, said that persecution has continued steadily.

The report also chronicles China’s oppression of Tibetan Buddhist practitioners and efforts to keep two of the religion’s most prominent leaders out of sight inside Tibet.

The report documents allegations of “forced disappearances, arrests, physical abuse and prolonged detentions without trial of monks, nuns and other persons due to their religious practices” in Chinese-occupied Tibet last year.

Chinese government officials have denied all allegations of human rights abuses and attempted to justify actions against Uyghurs as counterterrorism measures.

Blinken also addresses Iran’s Islamic theocracy, which imposes draconian restrictions on its population and brutal punishments for offences, as well as the ongoing wave of demonstrations inspired by the death of a teenager last September.

“People across Iran, led by young women, continue peaceful protests demanding their human rights, including freedom of religion, galvanized by the killing of Masa Amini, who was arrested by the so-called morality police because her hijab did not fully cover her hair,” said Blinken.

Additionally, the report outlined widespread violations against religious freedom perpetrated by Moscow, both in Russia and in occupied areas of Ukraine.

But Blinken also said across the globe, the report captured examples of progress, citing Belgium formally recognizing its Buddhist minority, lawmakers in Brazil codifying religious freedom guarantees for Afro-Brazilian indigenous communities, and various countries launching offices to combat islamophobia and antisemitism.

“More broadly, civil society and other concerned governments around the world have successfully secured the release of many who have been detained, even in prison for exercising their freedom of religion or belief,” he said.

The International Religious Freedom report is conducted annually by the State Department and describes the status of religious freedom, government policies violating religious beliefs and practices of groups, religious denominations and individuals, and US policies promoting religious freedom in nearly every country and territory throughout the world. (ANI)

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