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China’s priests critical of Beijing response to United States report

HONG KONG (UCAN) : Several priests have spoken out against comments made by the Foreign Ministry in Beijing on August 2 dismissing a claim made in the 2011 Report on Religious Freedom from the State Department of the United States of America (US) that the state of religious freedom in China is going backwards.

The State Department report, released on July 30, identified eight countries of particular concern, including China.

It says there has been a marked deterioration during 2011 in the Chinese government’s respect for and protection of religious freedom.

In a miffed response, the official Xinhua News quoted Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Hong Lei, on August 2 as saying, “The Chinese people are best qualified to judge China’s religious situation.”

He urged the US to discard its prejudicial attitude and to respect the facts by viewing China’s policy on religion and religious freedom in an objective and impartial way.

He also called on the US to stop using religious issues to interfere in China’s internal affairs and not to act in ways that damage bilateral relations, mutual trust and cooperation.

One Shanghai priest responded by saying, “I would not have offered an opinion in the past. But after the recent incident in my diocese, I think what other people have said is not without reason.”

The priest added, “Chinese officials should no longer work behind closed doors and feel good about themselves. They should learn to respect their people’s freedom.”

However, he questioned whether the people of China have access to sufficient information to make a balanced judgement.

“Are the Chinese people really qualified to judge? Do we judge from our inner hearts or from someone’s will? We have no right to judge; otherwise the Bishop Ma incident would not have happened,” he added.

He went on to say that the continual disregard for the opinions of others displayed by Beijing tends to isolate it in the world.

“Why is it that China does not have friends on the international stage? How can you expect others to respect you when you don’t respect your own people’s rights?” the priest said in urging his government to reflect on its religious policy.

Another priest, Father John Baptist, mocked the Foreign Ministry claims, calling them self-confident.

“The function of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association has gone far beyond its claim as a bridge between the Church and the government,” he said.

“In fact, it has become a tool to control the Church, without revealing the ruling authority is the real executioner,” the priest explained.

He explained that religious freedom in China only exists within a sphere limited by the government, saying that “allows you to believe in an alien Catholicism that does not comply with the orthodox Catholic faith.”

“Can this be called freedom?” Father John Baptist asked.

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