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Read More From Joe Abdo
  1. Jesus in Tibet
  2. Why you should care
  3. Refworld | Report on International Religious Freedom - China (includes Tibet)
  4. A Jesuit’s Quest for the Soul of Tibet

Many expatriate Christian groups throughout the country have developed close ties with local officials. In some cases they are allowed to provide social services such as operating schools and homes for the care of the elderly. Official tolerance for groups associated with Buddhism and Taoism has been greater than that for groups associated with other religions.

The Government also labeled some folk religions as "feudal superstitions," and in the past there were reports that followers sometimes were subject to harassment and repression. The Government's official policy was that only religious leaders affiliated with the PRAs were to receive religious instruction. There was a severe shortage of trained clergy for both registered and unregistered religious groups. PRA-affiliated organizations administered local religious schools, seminaries, and institutes to train priests, ministers, imams, Islamic scholars, and Buddhist monks.

The Government required students to demonstrate "political reliability," and all graduates had to pass an examination on their political, as well as theological, knowledge to qualify for the clergy. The shortage of training opportunities in the country has resulted in the creation of informal "field seminaries," lay leadership training programs, and online training resources for Christians. Some critics of the Government's policies on religion saw a lack of educational opportunities for mainstream clergy and the lack of access to religious texts and supplementary readings as factors that led some religious groups to develop unorthodox, or what the Government characterizes as "evil religion," beliefs.

Jesus in Tibet

Academics also reported that the Government's "patriotic education campaigns," which included compulsory political education in Tibetan monasteries, sometimes interfered with normal religious studies. Bible Study Fellowship also provided materials used to train clergy affiliated with registered and unregistered religious groups.

The Government also allowed an increasing number of PRA-approved Catholic and Protestant seminarians, Muslim clerics, and some Buddhist monks to travel abroad for additional religious study. In practice, some had difficulty obtaining passports or approval to study abroad. In , a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said the country had no national regulations preventing children from receiving religious instruction. Even so, officials sometimes disrupted religious classes for children.

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Concerns about separatism, religious extremism, and terrorism fueled repressive security measures by the Government of the XUAR, some of which restricted peaceful expressions of religious belief by Uighur Muslims. Authorities often failed to distinguish among those involved in peaceful activities in support of independence, "illegal" religious activities, and violent terrorism. Therefore, it was often difficult to determine whether particular raids, detentions, arrests, or judicial punishments targeted those who were peacefully seeking political goals or the right to worship, or those engaged in violence.

In the XUAR, the Government pledged to root out religious activities it deemed illegal, including religious education independent of the IAC, Hajj travel independent of the IAC, and use of religious texts deemed illegal. According to websites and public announcements of local governments in the XUAR, officials began collecting signatures of citizens who agreed to resist "illegal religious activities" and promised to hold open trials of individuals accused of "illegal religious activities" to demonstrate its consequences to the public.

The Government instructed imams to increase their efforts to gather information on worshippers and warned that they would be held responsible if their students took part in illegal religious activities. Tabligh sharing one's faith with others was deemed an "outstanding problem. Compared to other provinces and autonomous regions, the XUAR government maintained the most severe legal restrictions on a child's right to practice religion, and XUAR authorities in a few areas prohibited women, children, CCP members, and government workers from entering mosques. Tight controls on religion in the XUAR reportedly affected followers of other religions as well.

NGOs reported restrictions on public expressions of faith by teachers, professors, and university students, including during Ramadan. Some Uighur Muslims sought passage to Mecca from points outside the country for a variety of reasons, including to save money, to avoid cumbersome restrictions and procedural requirements, or to avoid tests of "patriotism" by the Government.

The law does not prohibit religious believers from holding public office; however, Communist Party membership is required for almost all high-level positions in government, state-owned businesses, and many official organizations. The CCP has stated that party members who belong to religious organizations are subject to expulsion.

The "Routine Service Regulations" of the People's Liberation Army states explicitly that servicemen "may not take part in religious or superstitious activities. Nonetheless, some Communist Party officials engage in religious activity, most commonly Buddhism or a folk religion, and a growing number of Communist Party members have become Christians. Leaders of the PRAs, which are included in national and local government organizations to represent their constituencies on cultural and educational matters, may be members of the CCP.

An analysis by the Pew Forum of a survey conducted by InterMedia, an international research and consulting organization, found that 33 percent of Communist Party officials and government employees are very or somewhat interested in having media access to information on the topic of religion. This makes them the most interested occupational group among the dozen or so groups reported.

The Government interfered with the employment of some individuals due to their religious or spiritual beliefs or activities. There were widespread reports that employers, both Chinese and foreign, were discouraged from hiring members of Falun Gong.

Why you should care

There were also several reports from Protestant Christians that they were terminated by their employers due to their religious activities. In April , Liu Aixin, a professor at Yang-En University, reported that the university terminated his employment because of his Christian activities. Under the RRA, registered religious organizations may compile and print materials for their internal use.

However, if they plan to distribute their materials publicly, they must follow national printing regulations, which restrict the publication and distribution of literature with religious content. Amity has printed more than 50 million Bibles for the Chinese readership and distributes them through a network of 70 urban distribution points and a mobile distribution network that travels to rural areas.

The Government authorized publishers other than Amity Press to publish at least 1, Christian titles.

Even so, increasing interest in Christianity produced a corresponding increase in demand for Bibles and other Christian literature, and members of unregistered churches reported that the supply and distribution of Bibles was inadequate in some rural locations. Individuals could not order Bibles directly from publishing houses, and distributors were sometimes wary of unfavorable attention that orders for purchases of large volumes of Bibles might attract. Under the RRA and regulations on publishing, religious texts published without authorization, including Bibles and Qur'ans, may be confiscated and unauthorized publishing houses closed.

Religious adherents are subject to arrest and imprisonment for illegal publishing. Authorities often confiscated Bibles in raids on house churches. Customs officials continued to monitor the importation of Bibles and other religious materials. The Government and the Holy See have not established diplomatic relations, and there was no Vatican representative in the country.

Refworld | Report on International Religious Freedom - China (includes Tibet)

The role of the Pope in selecting bishops, the status of underground Catholic clerics, and Vatican recognition of Taiwan remained obstacles to improved relations. A Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson stated that the Government advocated improvement in relations. The CPA does not recognize the authority of the Holy See to appoint bishops; however, it allowed the Vatican's discreet input in selecting some bishops. An estimated 90 percent of official Catholic bishops have reconciled with the Vatican.

Likewise, the majority of Catholic bishops appointed by the Government have received official approval from the Vatican through "apostolic mandates. The distinction between the official Catholic Church, which the Government controls politically, and the unregistered Catholic Church has become less clear over time. In some official Catholic churches, clerics led prayers for the Pope, and pictures of the Pope were displayed.

During the period covered by this report, officials continued to scrutinize, and in some cases harass, registered and unregistered religious and spiritual groups. In some areas government officials abused the rights of members of unregistered Protestant and Catholic groups, Uighur Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists, and members of groups the Government designated "evil religions," especially Falun Gong.

The Government detained, arrested, or sentenced to prison terms many religious leaders and adherents for activities related to their religious practice; however, the Government denied detaining or arresting anyone solely because of his or her religion.

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Local authorities often used an administrative process, through which citizens may be sentenced by a non-judicial panel of police and local authorities to up to three years in reeducation through labor RTL camps, to punish members of unregistered religious groups. During the reporting period, the Government reportedly held religious adherents and members of spiritual movements in RTL camps because of their religious beliefs.

In , the Government reported that there a total of , individuals were being held in RTL camps throughout the country. In some areas security authorities used threats, demolition of unregistered property, extortion, interrogation, detention, physical attacks, and torture to harass leaders of unauthorized groups and their followers. Offenses related to membership in unregistered religious groups were often classified as crimes of disturbing the social order.

Religious leaders and worshippers, however, faced criminal and administrative punishment for a wide variety of activities, including those related to the Government's refusal to allow members of unregistered groups to assemble, travel, and publish, or in connection with its ban on public proselytizing.

Some members of unregistered groups were charged with conducting illegal business operations in relation to their publishing activities. In February , several prominent religious leaders were harassed, placed under surveillance, restricted to their homes, or forced to leave Beijing during the visit of Secretary of State Clinton.

A Jesuit’s Quest for the Soul of Tibet

Authorities also reportedly ordered several Christian leaders to leave Beijing during the Olympic Games. Prominent religious leaders and religious freedom activists and their family members continued to serve time in prison. On February 4, , a dozen police officers forcibly took Christian attorney Gao Zhisheng from his hometown in Shaanxi. Gao had defended house church Christians and Falun Gong members. The Ministry of Justice rated him one of the country's top ten lawyers in After his arrest, NGOs published a letter he reputedly wrote detailing more than 50 days of brutal torture at the hands of police during a detention in Gao claimed he was tortured in retribution for writing an open letter to President Bush and the U.

Congress describing the Government's human rights abuses, including religious freedom abuses against Falun Gong and house churches. He also questioned the choice of Beijing as host of the Olympic Games. Gao's current whereabouts were unknown at the end of the reporting period. Gao's wife and children, who resettled in the United States during the reporting period, stated that security officials kept them under constant surveillance at home and school while they lived in Beijing.

During sensitive periods, they were forcibly relocated to other parts of the country. Authorities also forcibly relocated Zhang and detained his wife and sister-in-law at approximately the same time.

Christian Tibetan

Authorities pressed Zhang to sign a document agreeing to abolish the CHCA, and when Zhang refused and attempted to file an administrative statement of complaint, the court refused to accept his case. He was sentenced in June to seven years and six months in prison on charges of obtaining a fraudulent passport and illegally crossing the border.

At the end of the reporting period, Zhang continued to serve out his sentence. On February 8, , year-old Shuang Shuying was released from prison after serving a two-year prison sentence. Shuang had been sentenced in April , reportedly in an effort to pressure her son, house church pastor Hua Huiqi, into providing information to the Government about individuals who visited him.

Ablikim and Alim Kadeer, sons of Rebiya Kadeer, a human rights and religious freedom advocate for Uighur Muslims, continued to serve nine- and seven-year prison terms, respectively, on charges related to state security and economic crimes.