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China’s Religious Leaders Rebut the U.S. Religious Freedom Annual Report

[Editor’s Note: After the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released its 2010 Annual Report, Xinhua released statements from six religious leaders representing five major recognized religions (Buddhism, Daoism, Islam, Catholicism, and Protestantism).

There is little doubt that their views reflect the Chinese government’s position. The close collaboration between these leaders was impressive: each wasted no time in attacking his designated target: The two Buddhists attacked the Dalai Lama; the Taoist leader expressed how “all Chinese people and all religions passionately loath” Falun Gong; the head of China’s Islam Association condemned the instigators and organizers of Xinjiang violence; an official from the Chinese Catholic Church praised the government for supporting his religion and said “it is the best time in China to promote religion.” He also blamed the U.S. for voicing concerns over the persecution of Falun Gong, which he believes “is not even a religion”; Pastor Yu Xinli used former president Carter’s ribbon cutting at a China sponsored bible show in the U.S. as evidence of “real religious freedom” in China. The following is the translation of the full news article] [1]

(Xinhua Net from Beijing on May 7, Reporter Wei Wu) On April 29, the USCIRF released its “2010 Annual International Religious Freedom Report.” In the part regarding China, it continued to attack and accuse China’s religious policy and religious situation, continued to maliciously slander the Chinese Government’s handling of violent crime, and continued to attack China’s ban on the “Falun Gong” cult as “religious persecution.” To these accusations, the Chinese religious circles and the vast majority of religious believers expressed strong indignation and resolute opposition. Representatives of religious circles in China voiced their criticism.

The Vice president of the Buddhist Association of China, Master Xue Cheng, said, “The so-called USCIRF Annual Report is full of nonsense and not even worth refuting. The U.S. uses a double standard when dealing with international religious human rights issues. This is hegemonic behavior in the field of religion. The U.S. is interfering with the internal affairs of other countries and seriously abusing human rights. Buddhism believes in karmic retribution, and also teaches its followers to ‘tell no lie.’ I still remember what USCIRF delegates said in 2005, when they visited the Buddhist Association of China. However, when they went back, they lied in the Annual Report. Like all other religions, Chinese Buddhism enjoys full freedom of religion. There are three language systems in Chinese Buddhism: Mandarin, Tibetan and Pali. These three groups are as close as brothers. When the earthquake hit Yushu in Qinghai Province earlier this year, the Chinese Buddhist Association issued a written proposal calling on the Buddhists immediately to donate and support the disaster areas. We also held a special ‘prayer worship’ wishing the dead an early return to the pure land, the injured speedy recoveries, and the living more fortune and wisdom.” Master Xue Cheng particularly pointed out that in Lhasa in 2008, under the manipulation of the Dalai group, a very small number of lawless people committed violent crimes such as arson, vandalism, robbery and sabotage. “They undermined Tibet’s stability and attempted to create social unrest. This was a political scheme that the Dalai Group carefully planned in order to separate Tibet from China and destroy the Tibetan people’s normal, harmonious and peaceful life. It seriously damaged the Tibetan people’s interests. The U.S. Annual Report accused the Chinese government because it took the measures necessary to stop the violence. How outrageous! We hope the U.S. stops using religion to interfere with China’s internal affairs and does more constructive things for the friendship between the peoples of the two countries.”

Vice president Zhang Jiyu of the China Taoist Association said, “Since the reform and opening up policy started, China’s government has implemented the religious freedom policy, many churches and temples have been restored and opened to the public, and the teachings of all religions and cultures have been publicized and promoted. Under the Government’s sponsorship, the Chinese Taoists successfully organized the ‘Dao De Jing International Forum,’ which fully showcased our religious freedom and good environment for all religions to promote their own cultures. It is an obvious fact that in China various religions have made great progress and development, and that the citizens enjoy full freedom of religion. However, the Annual Report has ignored and deliberately distorted these facts and made unwarranted charges against religious freedom in China. In particular Chinese religious fields are puzzled and angry that the report continues to treat the organized criminal issue of the Falun Gong cult as a religious issue, although all Chinese people and all religious passionately loath it. Such a claim totally ignores the interests of all religions and people in China, and ignores the just calls from Chinese religious leaders and people. The Chinese government has banned the ‘Falun Gong’ cult in order to protect citizens’ basic human rights and religious freedom.”

The President of the Chinese Islamic Association Imam Chen Guangyuan said the Annual Report distorted the facts, reversed right and wrong, and used a “double standard.” He expressed indignation that the report even indulged in extremism and terrorism. As the president of the Chinese Islamic Association, Chen raised a strong protest, “In China there are more than 20 million Muslims in ten ethnic minorities. The Chinese government protects and respects their religious beliefs and lives.” Chen said, “Islam is a peaceful religion. Muslims are lovers of harmony and unity. We resolutely oppose killing the innocent. On July 5 of last year, serious violent crimes and fire vandalism incidents occurred in Urumqi, Xinjiang Autonomous Region. Its instigators, organizers and participants do not represent Islam. They cannot represent the Chinese Muslims. Their extreme behavior is completely contrary to the spirit of Islam. They stirred up ethnic and religious hatred, destroyed the normal social order, and damaged Chinese Muslims’ happy life under the reform and opening policy. This is not a religious issue. The Government took measures to stop the violence and the escalation of terrorist activities. The Government also strived to restore normal order. (This was done) in order to safeguard the fundamental interests of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang, and protect people’s safety and property. We Muslims strongly support the government. During this period, not a single Muslim or mosque in Xinjiang took part in the riots. On the contrary, many Islamic people risked their lives to save people of all ethnic groups. Imams in Xinjiang all actively assisted the government to maintain social stability and refute the fallacies of extremism. None of them was ‘arrested by the government.’ The mosques’ religious activities were normal and not ‘forbidden.’ The U.S. should pay more attention to its own domestic religious freedom, rather than using ulterior motives to accuse others.”

The Vice Chairman of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, Liu Bainian, said, “Since the reform and opening up policy (was adopted) more than 30 years ago, the Chinese Catholic clergymen and followers have lived a happy religious life. The Chinese Catholic Church has dispatched nearly a hundred priests, seminarians and nuns to study theology in nearly ten Catholic Universities in the United States, something unprecedented in Chinese Catholic history. We deeply feel that now is the best time in China to promote religion. When the State Administration of Religious Affairs invited the USCIRF (delegation) to visit China in 2005, they (the Americans) visited our Catholic Patriotic Association. They saw the actual situation of the churches in China. They told us their true thoughts, and agreed that China’s religious freedom policy has made great achievements. However, when they published the Annual Report, contrary to the Bible’s teaching of ‘truth is truth, false is false,’ they confused right and wrong for political purposes. We religious leaders in China cannot accept it. The ‘Falun Gong’ cult organized anti-social activities that were harmful to society; it is against all righteous religions teachings, and it is not even a religion. The USCIRF Report voiced sympathy for Falun Gong in order to use the cult to undermine China’s social stability and economic development. Its position is unpopular and not beneficial to friendship between the peoples in the two countries and the normal development of our bilateral relations.”

The Vice Chairman of the Chinese Christian Three-Self Patriotic Movement Committee, Pastor Yu Xinli, said, “China’s religious freedom is a fact, and Christians in China today can promote normal religious activities. Chinese Churches have printed and distributed more than 50 million volumes of the Bible. In 2006, for example, Chinese Churches successfully held a ‘China Bible Ministry Exhibition’ in the U.S., which attracted thousands of Americans. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony for the exhibition. In order to provide top quality religious services during the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, the Beijing municipal government provided support to build several new churches to meet the needs of believers to worship. We also printed a special Olympic Bible for the visiting foreign Christians. That thoroughly exemplified China’s freedom of religion.”

The Senior Vice President of the Tibetan Buddhism Institution in China, Living Buddha Nacang said, “The U.S. Annual Report accused and criticized our government’s policy of religious freedom and solemn position of safeguarding national unity and territorial integrity. It once again exposed the U.S.’s ill-natured interference in other countries’ internal affairs. The Chinese government has adopted many important measures to protect and promote religious freedom for Chinese citizens, including residents in Tibet and Xinjiang. The central government provided generous financial support to repair the Potala Palace and other religious places for Tibetan Buddhism. This shows the government’s protection of religious freedom. In 2008, arson, robbery and other violent crimes erupted in Lhasa. The rioters clearly wanted to make trouble and undermine the Olympic Games. Rioters killed dozens of precious lives, and caused huge property losses. A small number of unlawful monks were involved, and they seriously tarnished the reputation of Tibetan Buddhists. We Buddhists strongly support the Government’s necessary measures according to the law to combat the serious violent crimes and arson. We also urge the U.S. to stop supporting the 14th Dalai Lama, and urge him to stop his activities of splitting the motherland.”

[1] Source: Xinhua, May 7, 2010