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Unregistered religion under the hammer

HONG KONG (SE): Government interference in religion is growing in China, with authorities suppressing Islam and denigrating Christian teachings as a foreign import, a report released by Freedom House on February 28 maintains.

Radio Free Asia quoted the report as saying that to the detriment of Christianity and Islam, Beijing is promoting Chinese Buddhism and Taoism, as it sees them as being more supportive of traditional notions of loyalty to the state.

However, Tibetan Buddhism does not fall among the list of most favoured religions and continues to exist under harsh control, the report titled, The Battle for China’s Spirit, says.

Sarah Cook, a senior researcher for Freedom House, pointed out that state-controlled Churches are failing to meet the growing demand for religion in China, leaving an enormous black market and forcing many believers... to operate outside the law and, consequently, viewing the regime as unreasonable, unjust or illegitimate.

Cook maintains that at least 100 million people who worship outside of the officially controlled Churches under the Three-Self-Patriotic Movement or the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association are currently at high risk or even very high risk of persecution.

She pointed out that expanding control systems, which include electronic surveillance, harsh prison terms and state violence are pushing the risk level to its highest point in decades.

The Freedom House report maintains that its research shows that Chinese citizens currently in prison for taking part in unauthorised religious activity number at least tens of thousands.

It also admits that that number probably represents only the tip of the iceberg.

Cases detailed in the report include a Christian pastor handed a 14-year prison term for opposing a campaign to remove crosses from churches in Zhejiang, an ethnic Uyghur teenager jailed for 15 years for watching an Islamic religious video on his phone and a Tibetan monk given an 18-year term for possessing images of the Dalai Lama.

Freedom House is a non-government organisation funded by the government of the United States of America to research advocacy on democracy, political freedom and human rights.

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