Religious freedom conditions in China continued to deteriorate: US report

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Washington:  An annual American report on religious freedom has said China continues to create  a high-tech surveillance state, utilizing facial recognition and artificial intelligence to monitor religious minorities.

“In 2019, religious freedom conditions in China continued to deteriorate,” the report said.

The report voiced concern over Chinese treatment of Uyghur Muslim community.

Independent experts estimate that between 900,000 and 1.8 million Uighur, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, and other Muslims have been detained in more than 1,300 concentration camps in Xinjiang— an estimate revised upward since the previous reporting period, the report said.

“Individuals have been sent to the camps for wearing long beards, refusing alcohol, or other behaviors authorities deem to be signs of ‘religious extremism’,” it said.

The report said, authorities in Xinjiang and other parts of China have destroyed or damaged thousands of mosques and removed Arabic-language signs from Muslim businesses.

The report also accused China of intensifying religious repression on other minority groups like  Tibetan Buddhists and Christians.

“The Chinese government continued to pursue a strategy of forced assimilation and suppression of Tibetan Buddhism, as demonstrated by the laws designed to control the next reincarnation of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and those of other Tibetan eminent lamas,” it said.

“Chinese authorities raided or closed down hundreds of Protestant house churches in 2019, including Rock Church in Henan Province and Shouwang Church in Beijing,” read the report.

“Authorities across the country have removed crosses from churches, banned youth under the age of 18 from participating in religious services, and replaced images of Jesus Christ or the Virgin Mary with pictures of President Xi Jinping,” it said referring to the alleged treatment given to Christians in the country.

” According to reports, thousands of Falun Gong practitioners were arrested during 2019 for practicing the movement’s meditation exercises or distributing literature about their beliefs,” it said.

Urging world bodies to demand more from China, the report said: “There is no question that China is the world’s foremost violator of human rights and religious freedom. It cannot be compared to any other country in the world not only because of its inexcusable actions, but because of the way it aids and abets similar actions by other countries all around the world.”

“Meanwhile, the international order, in pursuit of self-interest, continues to let China play by its own rules, and especially at the United Nations. This is absolutely inexcusable, and those nations around the world who ignore China’s malevolence may eventually find themselves subservient to it. It is past time for our world bodies, and our liberal democracies, to demand more from China,” it said.