Tuesday, September 21, 2004

China Cited for Repeated Offences

Religious Freedom Watchdog Cites China's Repeated Offenses
By Allie Martin
September 21, 2004

(AgapePress) - The head of the U.S. Department of State's Office of International Religious Freedom says China continues to oppress Christians and other religious groups, and that is why the Communist nation remains on the department's list of "countries of particular concern."

The release of the sixth annual State Department Report to Congress on International Religious Freedom has cited a number of repeat offenders on its list of governments that violate citizens' basic human right to religious liberty. China is one of five nations that has been among those offending nations for quite some time.

John Hanford, Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, notes that the conditions reported in China warrant that regime's inclusion on the list of countries of particular concern. "China has been on the list for many years," he says. "It's one of the most repressive governments in the world on religious freedom as well as other basic human rights."

For years the Communist government in China has continuously engaged in the repressive treatment of Christians and other religious groups, Hanford explains. "Protestants are forced to belong to the government-sanctioned church," he says, "and if they don't and they try to meet in house churches, then they risk arrest and, in some severe cases, beatings and torture."

The U.S. diplomat gives an especially egregious example of the state's treatment of religious believers. "We've been working on a case of one particular house church leader who has been horribly treated," he says, "and many of his parishioners have as well. In fact, some of the women in his church were tortured into falsely accusing him of rape."

Hanford says the Chinese house church minister was arrested and has been wrongly detained for some time, even though the women recanted their testimony as soon as they were released "so that all the world would know that [the rape they were tortured into reporting] is not what had happened."

But after they recanted, the Ambassador at Large notes, "the government just re-arrested those women again, and unfortunately this poor pastor continues to languish in jail." Hanford says this is the kind of religious freedom violation that has kept China on the State Department's watch list for years.