China remains "very" troubling country on religious freedom, says US diplomat
Washington, May 30: A top American diplomat on Wednesday said that China remains a "very troubling" country on religious freedom, observing that Tibetan Buddhists continue to be in a very difficult situation.
"Situation for Tibetan Buddhists that continues to be a very difficult situation for them ... for Christians, for Falun Gong practitioners. China remains a very, very troubling country on religious freedom," US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback told reporters during a news conference here.
According to the annual State Department report on International Religious Freedom, although Chinese authorities continued to block information about the number of self-immolations of Tibetan Buddhists, including Buddhist monks, media reported on six self-immolations and one instance in which a man in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) committed suicide by slitting his throat.
Reportedly, a Buddhist monk self-immolated in Haikou City due to a land requisition dispute involving a Buddhist temple. Multiple media outlets reported an increase in control over religious activities in advance of the 19th Party Congress in October, it said. There are between six-eight million Tibetan Buddhists in China.
"Tibetan Buddhists in the country, including outside the TAR, are not free to venerate the Dalai Lama openly," the report said.
"While there is no public law expressly forbidding it, authorities view as suspect any display of the Dalai Lama's photo by businesses or individuals and treat those seen as loyal to him as a separatist threat," it said.
In February last year, the report said authorities in Xinjiang defined 26 religious activities, including some practices of Islam, Christianity, and Tibetan Buddhism, as illegal without government authorization.
These regulations, which came into force April 1, stipulate that no classes, scripture study groups, or religious studies courses may be offered by any group or institution without prior government approval. No religious group is permitted to carry out any religious activities, including preaching, missionary work, proselytizing, and ordaining clergy, without government approval.
"The pronouncement forbids the designation of reincarnations of Tibetan Buddhist teachers without government approval," the report said.
It also bans editing, translation, publication, printing, reproduction, production, distribution, sale, and dissemination of religious publications and audiovisual products without authorization, said the Congressional-mandated report.