2011 Report on International Religious Freedom: China (Includes Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau)

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
July 30, 2012

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Executive SummaryShare    

The constitution provides for freedom of “religious belief,” but limits protections for religious practice to “normal religious activities.” The government applies the term “normal religious activities” in a manner that does not meet international human rights standards for freedom of religion. The government’s respect for and protection of the right to religious freedom deteriorated.

The constitution says that no state, public organization, or individual may compel citizens to believe in, or not believe in, any religion. Only religious groups belonging to one of the five state-sanctioned “patriotic religious associations” (Buddhist, Taoist, Muslim, Roman Catholic, and Protestant) are permitted to register with the government and legally hold worship services. Other religious groups, such as Protestant groups unaffiliated with the official patriotic religious association or Catholics professing loyalty to the Vatican, are not permitted to register as legal entities. Proselytizing in public or unregistered places of worship is not permitted. Some religious and spiritual groups are outlawed. Tibetan Buddhists in China are not free to venerate the Dalai Lama openly and encounter severe government interference in religious practice (see Tibet section). Chinese Communist Party (CCP) members are required to be atheists and are generally discouraged from participating in religious activities.

During the year the government’s repression of religious freedom remained severe in Tibetan areas and the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR). The government continued to implement measures strictly regulating religious activity and severely limited religious freedoms in Tibetan areas and in the XUAR.

Registered religious groups provided social services throughout the country, and certain overseas faith-based aid groups were allowed to deliver services in coordination with local authorities and domestic groups. Some unregistered religious groups reported that local authorities placed limits on their ability to provide social services.

There were reports of societal discrimination based on religious affiliation, ethnicity, belief, or practice. Both Uighur Muslims and Tibetan Buddhists reported increased societal discrimination, especially around sensitive periods.

The Department of State, the embassy, and consulates general in Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Shenyang, and Wuhan consistently urged the government to expand the scope of religious freedom in accordance with the rights codified in the constitution and internationally recognized norms. U.S. officials criticized abuses of religious freedom, acknowledged positive trends, and met with religious believers, family members of religious prisoners, and religious freedom defenders. The embassy protested the imprisonment of individuals on charges related to their religious practices and other abuses of religious freedom. Since 1999 the secretary of state has designated the country as a “Country of Particular Concern” (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) for particularly severe violations of religious freedom. On August 18, the secretary redesignated the country as a CPC.

Section I. Religious DemographyShare    

A 2007 survey conducted by researchers in Shanghai concluded that 31.4 percent of citizens ages 16 and over were religious believers. According to estimates based on survey data, approximately 200 million nationals are Buddhist, Taoist, or worshippers of folk gods. In its report to the United Nations Human Rights Council during its Universal Periodic Review in February 2009, the government stated that there were “more than 100 million followers of different religious faiths and the religious population is steadily increasing.” It is difficult to estimate the number of Buddhists and Taoists because they do not have congregational memberships, and many practice exclusively at home. A 2007 public opinion poll found that 11 to 16 percent of adults identified themselves as Buddhists, and less than 1 percent of adults identified themselves as Taoists.

According to the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA), there are more than 21 million Muslims in the country; unofficial estimates range as high as 50 million. According to SARA there are approximately 36,000 Islamic places of worship (more than half of which are in the XUAR), more than 45,000 imams, and 10 Islamic schools in the country. Some Muslim communities have designated separate mosques for female worshippers. There are 10 predominantly Muslim ethnic groups in the country. The 2000 census reported 20.3 million members of predominantly Muslim nationalities, of which 96 percent belonged to three groups: Hui, 9.8 million; Uighurs, 8.4 million; and Kazakhs, 1.25 million. Hui Muslims are concentrated primarily in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, Qinghai, Gansu, and Yunnan provinces. Uighur Muslims live primarily in Xinjiang.

The 2011 Blue Book of Religions, produced by the Institute of World Religions at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), a research institution directly under the State Council, reports the number of Christians to be between 23 and 40 million, accounting for no greater than 3 percent of the population. Seventy percent of Christians are female, and 67 percent have been baptized, according to the Blue Book. The Pew Research Center estimated in 2007 that 50 million to 70 million Christians practiced in unregistered religious gatherings, also known as “house churches.”

In June 2010 SARA reported the official Protestant population to be 16 million. Government officials stated that there were more than 50,000 Protestant churches registered under the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM), the state-approved Protestant patriotic association, and 18 TSPM theological schools. A CASS study found that 70 percent of Protestants worship in registered churches, while the remaining 30 percent worship in unregistered churches or private residences.

According to SARA more than six million Catholics worship in sites registered by the Catholic Patriotic Association (CPA). In 2009 the Holy Spirit Study Center in Hong Kong estimated there were 12 million Catholics on the mainland. According to the Blue Book, there were 64 official Catholic bishops, 2,700 priests, 5,000 nuns, over 6,300 churches and meeting places, 10 seminaries, and nine preseminaries in 2010. Of the 97 dioceses in the country, 40 reportedly did not have an officiating bishop in 2007, and in 2009 an estimated 30 bishops were over 80 years of age.

Local governments have legalized certain religious communities and practices in addition to the five nationally recognized religions, such as Orthodox Christianity in Xinjiang, Heilongjiang, Zhejiang, and Guangdong provinces. Some ethnic minorities retain traditional religions, such as Dongba among the Naxi people in Yunnan and Buluotuo among the Zhuang in Guangxi. Worship of the folk deity Mazu reportedly has been reclassified as “cultural heritage” rather than religious practice.

Prior to the government’s 1999 ban of Falun Gong, a self-described spiritual discipline, it was estimated that there were 70 million adherents.

Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious FreedomShare    

Legal/Policy Framework

The constitution provides for freedom of religious belief, but limits protections for religious practice to “normal religious activities,” a term applied in a manner that falls short of international human rights standards for freedom of religion. The constitution does not define “normal.” The government has signed, but not ratified, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which provides all individuals the right to “adopt a religion or belief” of choice and manifest belief through “worship, observance, and practice.” The constitution provides for the right to hold or not to hold a religious belief. It is not possible to take legal action against the government on the basis of the religious freedom protections afforded by the constitution. Criminal law allows the state to sentence government officials to up to two years in prison if they violate religious freedom.

Certain religious or spiritual groups are banned by law. Individuals belonging to or supporting banned groups have been imprisoned or administratively sentenced to Reeducation Through Labor (RTL) on charges such as “distributing evil cult materials” or “using a heretical organization to subvert the law.” The criminal law defines banned groups as “evil cults.” A 1999 judicial explanation stated that this term refers to “those illegal groups that have been found using religions, qigong (a traditional Chinese exercise discipline), or other things as a camouflage, deifying their leading members, recruiting and controlling their members, and deceiving people by molding and spreading superstitious ideas, and endangering the society.” There are no public criteria for determining, or procedures for challenging, such a designation. The government maintained a ban on Guanyin Method Sect (Guanyin Famen or the Way of the Goddess of Mercy), Zhong Gong (a qigong exercise discipline), and Falun Gong. The government also considered several Christian groups to be “evil cults,” including the “Shouters,” Eastern Lightning, the Society of Disciples (Mentu Hui), Full Scope Church, Spirit Sect, New Testament Church, Three Grades of Servants (or San Ban Pu Ren), Association of Disciples, Lord God Sect, Established King Church, Unification Church, Family of Love, and the South China Church.

The 1998 Religious Affairs Regulations and 2005 Regulations on Social Organizations allow official patriotic religious associations to engage in activities such as building places of worship, training religious leaders, publishing literature, and providing social services to local communities. The CCP’s United Front Work Department, SARA, and the Ministry of Civil Affairs provide policy guidance and supervision on the implementation of these regulations. Most leaders of official government religious organizations serve in the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a CCP-led advisory body that provides advice to the central government from business leaders, academics, and other segments of society.

Religious groups independent of the five official government patriotic religious associations have difficulty obtaining legal status and can be vulnerable to coercive and punitive action by the Religious Affairs Bureau, the Public Security Bureau (PSB) and other party or government security organs.

Since 2005 SARA has acknowledged, through a policy posted on its Web site, that family and friends have the right to meet at home for worship, including prayer and Bible study, without registering with the government.

On March 1, 2010, regulations issued by the State Administration of Foreign Exchange went into effect outlining requirements under which all domestic nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), including religious organizations, may be permitted to receive donations of foreign currency. The regulation requires documented approval by SARA of donations from foreign sources to domestic religious groups of over one million RMB ($152,997).

The government subsidized the construction of state-sanctioned places of worship and religious schools.

Individuals seeking to enroll at an official seminary or other institution of religious learning must obtain the support of the official patriotic religious association. The government requires students to demonstrate “political reliability,” and political issues were included in examinations of graduates of all religious schools. Both registered and unregistered religious groups reported a shortage of trained clergy.

The government and the Holy See have not established diplomatic relations, and the Vatican has no representative in the country. The CPA does not recognize the authority of the Holy See to appoint bishops; approximately 40 Catholic bishops remained independent of the CPA and operated unofficially. The CPA has allowed the Vatican discreet input in selecting some bishops, and an estimated 90 percent of CPA bishops have reconciled with the Vatican. Nevertheless, in some locations local authorities reportedly pressured unregistered Catholic priests and believers to renounce all ordinations approved by the Holy See. Most of the Catholic bishops previously appointed by the government as CPA bishops later were elevated by the Vatican through apostolic mandates.

Faith-based charities, like all other charitable groups in the country, were required to register with the government. According to several unregistered religious groups, an additional prerequisite is obtaining official cosponsorship of the registration application by the local official religious affairs bureau, rather than a technical or other bureau. These groups often also were required to affiliate with one of the five patriotic religious associations. Unregistered charity groups, of any sort, are not permitted to openly raise funds, hire employees, open bank accounts, or own property.

The government allowed social service work by registered religious groups, including Catholic, Buddhist, and Protestant organizations.

Under Article 33 of the Regulations on Religious Affairs, if a religious structure is to be demolished or relocated, the party responsible for demolishing the structure is to consult with the religious affairs bureau and the religious group using the structure. If all parties agree to the demolition, the party conducting the demolition should agree to rebuild the structure or provide compensation equal to the appraised market value of the structure.

Registered religious organizations are allowed to compile and print religious materials for internal use. In order to distribute religious materials publicly, an organization must follow national printing regulations, which restrict the publication and distribution of literature with religious content. The government limited distribution of Bibles to TSPM/Chinese Christian Council entities such as churches, church bookshops, and seminaries. Individuals could not order Bibles directly from publishing houses. Members of unregistered churches reported that the supply and distribution of Bibles were inadequate, particularly in rural locations. There were approximately 600 Christian titles legally in circulation. According to a foreign Christian source, in the last 10 years, an estimated 200 Christian bookstores and nine domestic Christian publishers had opened in the country.

Under the Regulations on Religious Affairs and other regulations on publishing, religious texts published without authorization, including Bibles and Qur’ans, may be confiscated and unauthorized publishing houses closed. There were reports that XUAR regulations banned Uighur-language editions of the Bible.

In 2005 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that parents were permitted to instruct children under the age of 18 in religious beliefs and that children may participate in religious activities. The teaching of atheism in schools is allowed. In the XUAR there were widespread reports of prohibitions on children participating in religious activities. However, children have been observed in mosques and at Friday prayers in parts of the XUAR. The Xinjiang Implementing Measures on the Law on the Protection of Minors instruct those under 18 to not look at materials with content related to “evil cults” and imposes penalties on adults who “force” minors to participate in religious activities.

The law does not prohibit religious believers from holding public office. However, the CCP has stated that its members who belong to religious organizations are subject to expulsion. The labor law states that job applicants shall not face discrimination in job hiring based on factors including religious belief.

Some religious adherents opposed the state’s family planning policy for reasons of religious belief and practice. The country still maintains strict birth limitation policies. (See section 1.f. of the Country Report on Human Rights Practices for China, available at 2009-2017.state.gov.)

Foreign residents who belonged to religious groups not officially recognized by the government were generally permitted to practice their religions. The constitution states that official government religious bodies are not “subject to any foreign domination.” According to the Rules for the Implementation of the Provisions on the Administration of Religious Activities of Aliens within the Territory of the People’s Republic of China, foreigners may not proselytize, conduct religious activities at unregistered venues, or conduct religious activities with local citizens at temporary religious venues.

The government allowed some foreign educational institutions to continue to provide religious materials in Chinese, which were used by both registered and unregistered religious groups.

Many prisoners and detainees were not permitted religious observance.

Government Practices

There were reports of abuses of religious freedom, including religious prisoners and detainees. The government’s respect for and protection of the right to religious freedom deteriorated.

During the year religious affairs officials and security organs scrutinized and restricted the religious activities of registered and unregistered religious and spiritual groups. The government harassed, detained, arrested, or sentenced to prison a number of religious adherents for activities reported to be related to their religious practice. These activities included assembling for religious worship, expressing religious beliefs in public and in private, and publishing religious texts.

The government stated that it did not detain or arrest anyone solely because of his or her religion. In parts of the country, local authorities tacitly approved of or did not interfere with the activities of unregistered groups. In other areas local officials punished the same activities by restricting activities and meetings, confiscating and destroying property, or imprisoning leaders and worshippers. In some parts of the country, authorities charged religious believers unaffiliated with a patriotic religious association with various crimes, including “illegal religious activities” or “disrupting social stability.” Local authorities often used administrative detention or confinement at RTL camps to punish members of unregistered religious or spiritual groups.

According to China News Weekly, the country had 22 “ankang” institutions (high-security psychiatric hospitals for the criminally insane) directly administered by the Ministry of Public Security. Unregistered religious believers and Falun Gong adherents were among those reported to be held with mentally ill patients in these institutions. Regulations for committing a person to an ankang facility were not clear, and detainees or their families were afforded few formal mechanisms for effectively challenging public security officials’ determinations of mental illness or the administrative sentencing of individuals to ankang facilities. Some patients in these hospitals reportedly were given medicine against their will and sometimes forcibly subjected to electric shock treatment.

It remained difficult to confirm some aspects of reported abuses of Falun Gong adherents. International Falun Gong-affiliated NGOs and international media reported that detentions of Falun Gong practitioners continued to increase around sensitive dates. Some neighborhood communities reportedly were instructed to report on Falun Gong members to officials; monetary rewards were offered to citizens who informed on Falun Gong practitioners. Falun Gong-affiliated NGOs alleged that detained practitioners were subjected to various methods of physical and psychological coercion in attempts to force them to deny their belief in Falun Gong. Falun Gong sources estimated that since 1999 at least 6,000 Falun Gong practitioners had been sentenced to prison. Falun Gong adherents also have been subjected to administrative sentences of up to three years in RTL camps. Unconfirmed reports from overseas Falun Gong-affiliated advocacy groups estimated that thousands of adherents in the country had been sentenced to RTL.

In December Xintan village authorities in Shandong Province broke up preparations for an outdoor Christmas celebration, reportedly destroying sound equipment and injuring worshippers. Local religious affairs officials said they cancelled the event because it violated the government ban on worship outdoors.

In November Hunan Province authorities reportedly initiated a campaign against Christians and Falun Gong adherents, targeting families for “refuse cult” activities. More than 200 Christians and Falun Gong practitioners in Beishan Village, Longhui County, were subjected to a “study class” with lessons on disseminating “anti-cult” information. As part of the campaign, more than 11,000 local residents reportedly were forced to sign guarantees prohibiting them from participating in religious and spiritual activities.

On November 5, Guangzhou resident Tan Kaiqing, a Falun Gong practitioner, was arrested. At year’s end she reportedly was detained at the Haizhu District PSB.

In August police in Dianbai County, Guangdong Province, detained Falun Gong practitioners Liu Shaozai and Mai Weilian, according to online accounts. In October the local Procuratorate, the government body that handles prosecutions in criminal cases, approved their arrest warrant, and they were transferred to a detention facility.

Guangdong Buddhist leader and businessman Wu Zeheng, who was convicted of economic crimes in 1999 after sending open letters to the country’s leadership calling for political reform and was released in February 2010 after 11 years’ imprisonment, remained under police surveillance, according to online reports. These reports also stated that police beat him during a Buddhist ceremony in May.

In April authorities forced two unregistered churches in Guangzhou to close and detained their leaders after they unsuccessfully tried to hold Easter services, according to foreign media. However, authorities indicated that members of the congregations could continue to meet in smaller groups of no more than 10. As of December, officials continued to impose these restrictions on at least one of the congregations.

In July Guangzhou’s Haizhu District People’s Court sentenced lawyer Zhu Yubiao to two years’ imprisonment for possessing Falun Gong books and DVDs, according to online reporting. Zhu, who previously handled Falun Gong cases, had been held in police custody since August 2010 on charges of “using a cult to undermine the law.”

There was no new information on Falun Gong practitioners Zeng Jiagang and Zeng Libo, whose whereabouts remained unknown following online reports that Guangzhou police took them from their homes in August 2010 and confiscated computers and books on Falun Gong.

Pastor Yang Rongli, Zhang Huamei, and Wang Xiaoguang of the Golden Light branch of the unregistered Linfen church network in Shanxi Province continued to serve prison sentences. Five other members of the congregation were released from RTL in August. They were imprisoned in November 2009 for “illegally occupying agricultural land” and “assembling a crowd to disrupt traffic,” charges members of the congregation and other observers believed to be related to a dispute with local authorities over the land on which their church was built.

At year’s end Alimjiang Yimiti, the Uighur leader of an unregistered Christian church, continued to serve a 15-year sentence for “illegally providing state secrets or intelligence to foreign entities.” He was sentenced in December 2009 by the Kashgar Prefecture Intermediate People’s Court; his appeal was denied in March 2010. In 2008 the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention ruled that his detention was in violation of international standards of due process.

Some unofficial Catholic clergy remained in detention, in particular in Hebei Province. Harassment of unregistered bishops and priests continued, including government surveillance and repeated short detentions. Father Li Huisheng from Xiwanzi Diocese, Hebei Province, continued to serve a seven-year sentence imposed in 2006 for “inciting the masses against the government.” There was no new information about the welfare or whereabouts of unregistered Catholic Bishop Su Zhimin, who remained unaccounted for since his reported detention in 1997.

The government did not renew the professional licenses of a number of attorneys who advocated on behalf of religious freedom, and it imprisoned other religious freedom activists or otherwise impeded their work on behalf of religious clients. Authorities also harassed or detained the family members of some religious leaders and religious freedom activists.

Over the course of the year, the government’s repression of religious freedom remained severe in the XUAR and other Tibetan areas, particularly during “sensitive periods.”

In April two Uighur Muslims were sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for “engaging in illegal religious activities” and “publishing and distributing illegal religious materials.”

Two sons of Uighur Muslim activist, Rebiya Kadeer, remained in prison.

Security officials frequently interrupted outdoor services of the unregistered Shouwang church in Beijing and temporarily detained members attending those services. On Easter international media reported that security officials blocked 500 worshippers from leaving their homes and detained more than 36 for attempting to attend religious services. Authorities restricted the freedom of movement of Shouwang’s head pastor and several other leaders during the year. The church continued to be unable to access a property it purchased for the purpose of holding religious services; at various times the church’s Web site was blocked.

In January police reportedly stopped Wang Yi, who runs the large Autumn Rain house church in Chengdu, at the Chengdu airport along with three other church members when they were preparing to board a flight to Shenzhen to attend an evangelical conference in Hong Kong. While the other church members eventually were permitted to depart, Wang, an active defender of Christians’ rights, reportedly was not allowed to leave the mainland to participate. In May, as a gesture of support for Beijing’s Shouwang Church, Wang Yi reportedly joined other house church pastors in sending an open letter or “citizens’ petition” to the National People’s Congress, seeking a resolution of the church-state conflict and a guarantee of religious freedom.

On March 30, international media reported that the government’s CPA ordained without Vatican approval Liang Jiansen as Bishop of Jiangmen Archdiocese in Guangdong Province.

On July 14, the CPA ordained Joseph Huang Bingzhang as Bishop of Guangdong’s Shantou Archdiocese without Vatican approval. Foreign media indicated that the government reportedly took into custody and forced four bishops from the region to attend the ordination ceremony. Other online reports indicate that Zhuang Jianjian, the Vatican-appointed bishop of Shantou, was held under house arrest for over a month in advance of Huang’s ordination. On July 16, the Vatican stated that his ordination was illegitimate and added that “the Holy See does not recognize him... and he lacks authority to govern the Catholic community of the diocese” and excommunicated him. The Vatican also excommunicated Father Paul Lei Shiyin, who was ordained bishop of Leshan on June 29 without papal mandate.

The government demanded that the Vatican revoke the excommunications of the two bishops. On July 25, Xinhua published a statement from SARA which called the excommunications “extremely unreasonable and rude” and stated that “the majority of priests and believers will more resolutely choose the path of independently selecting and ordaining its bishops, and the government will continue to support and encourage such practice.”

Some individuals and groups affiliated with religious communities claimed that the government took their land without adequate compensation in accordance with the Religious Affairs Regulations. Guangzhou’s Liangren Church, forced to close under pressure from public security officials in August 2010, was unsuccessful in its search for a new location to hold services, according to online reports. During the year members of the Liangren congregation at times worshiped outdoors to protest their removal from their rented facilities.

The government generally enforced legal and policy restrictions on religious freedom, particularly in the XUAR and Tibetan areas. Official tolerance for groups associated with Buddhism, except for Tibetan Buddhism, and Taoism, was greater than that for groups associated with other religions. The government continued to restrict the growth of unregistered Protestant church networks and cross-congregational affiliations.

At a meeting of the XUAR Social Management Committee held on December 6, XUAR Chairman Nur Bekri said that the management of religion was an important part of social management. Bekri urged the committee to search actively for innovative approaches to religious management and put forward practical measures to ensure that religious activities were conducted in an orderly manner. Bekri also said the management committee must increase the rectification of illegal religious activities in the XUAR to eradicate the fundamental roots of religious extremism. He asked authorities to strengthen daily management of religious activities, increase the work capability of religious management at the grassroots level, and improve the legal system in religious management.

In the XUAR the government’s concerns over “separatism, religious extremism, and terrorism” contributed to repressive restrictions on religious practices of Uighur Muslims. Authorities often failed to distinguish between peaceful religious practice and criminal or terrorist activities. It remained difficult to determine whether particular raids, detentions, arrests, or judicial punishments targeted those seeking political goals, the right to worship, or criminal acts. Hui Muslims in Ningxia, Gansu, Qinghai, and Yunnan provinces engaged in religious practice with less government interference.

Media reported that Muslims could apply online or through local official Islamic associations to participate in the Hajj. According to media reports in the country, approximately 13,700 Muslim citizens participated in the Hajj in the fall, flown on 41 specially arranged Hajj charter flights. Uighur Muslims separately reported difficulties taking part in state-sanctioned Hajj travel due to inability to obtain travel documents in a timely manner, difficulties meeting criteria required for participation in the official Hajj program run by the Islamic Association of China, and quotas on the number of travelers allowed from the country imposed by Saudi Arabia. The government took measures to limit the ability of Uighur Muslims to make private Hajj pilgrimages outside of the government-organized program.

In July authorities in Zhejiang Province reportedly expelled ethnic minority Muslim high school students from school for attending a mosque, according to a report on an overseas Uighur advocacy group’s Web site. Authorities expelled the students after they were caught in Muslim prayer. The NGO reported that “the school said that they had been engaged in illegal religious activities.”

Islamic schools in Yunnan Province refused to accept ethnic Uighur students.

Tight restrictions on the exchanges of monks among Tibetan Buddhist monasteries affected the quality of Tibetan religious education. Ethnic Han who wish to study Tibetan Buddhism in Tibetan areas often are denied permission for long-term study there.

Several religious groups reported that applications for registration were rejected because the groups had not affiliated with an official patriotic religious association. Respect for SARA’s policy permitting family and friends to meet at home for worship, including prayer and Bible study, without registering with the government was uneven at the provincial, county, and local levels. In several reported cases, local officials disrupted religious meetings in private homes.

The government rejected repeated applications to register the Bimo shamanistic religion, practiced by many of the eight million ethnic Yi living in southwest China, limiting the Yi people’s ability to preserve their religious heritage.

SARA announced in January that it would “guide” Protestants worshipping at unregistered churches into worshipping at government-sanctioned ones during the year. According to an agenda published on SARA’s Web site, SARA aimed to help the activities of Protestant churches proceed in a “normal and orderly” way.

Authorities often confiscated Bibles in raids on house churches. Customs officials continued to monitor the importation of Bibles and other religious materials. In the XUAR government authorities at times restricted the sales of the Qur’an.

Patriotic religious association-approved Catholic and Protestant seminarians, Muslim clerics, and some Buddhist monks were allowed to travel abroad for additional religious study. However, religious workers not affiliated with a patriotic religious association faced difficulties obtaining passports or official approval to study abroad.

Blogs of a number of religious groups and individuals were periodically blocked during the year.

In some instances foreign groups had to apply for special access to religious facilities.

The government reportedly sought the forcible return of ethnic Uighurs living outside the country.

In May Shanghai authorities permitted the Ohel Rachel Synagogue to receive visitors for the duration of the Shanghai World Expo, which ended on October 31. The synagogue is part of the Shanghai Education Commission compound. The use rights the Shanghai Jewish Community enjoyed during the Expo were not renewed by year’s end.

For information on North Korean refugees, please see the U.S. Department of State’s 2011 Country Report on Human Rights Practices in China and the 2011 International Religious Freedom Report on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Improvements and Positive Developments in Respect for Religious Freedom

During the year three Catholic bishops were ordained with the approval of both the Vatican and the official Chinese Catholic church. On November 30, Father Peter Luo Xuegang was ordained coadjutor bishop of Yibin Diocese in Sichuan Province. On May 20, Monsignor John Lu Peisen was ordained bishop of Yanzhou, Shandong Province. Bishop Lu, a longtime seminary professor, was approved by the Holy See and the government. On March 30, Father Paul Liang Jiansen was ordained as Bishop of Jiangmen, with both papal approval and government recognition.

Sichuan-registered church contacts noted that the provincial government had encouraged the church to assist in providing social services, particularly in areas that had suffered from the 2008 earthquake. The same contacts noted that they have been developing close ties with congregations in Hong Kong, Taiwan, the United States, and South Korea and were able to use contributions from these countries to finance local development projects, including church construction.

Although CCP members are required to be atheists and generally are discouraged from participating in religious activities, their attendance at official church services in Guangdong Province was reportedly growing, as authorities increasingly chose to turn a blind eye to their attendance.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious FreedomShare    

There were reports of societal discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice. Because religion, culture, and ethnicity are often tightly intertwined, it is difficult to categorize many incidents specifically as examples of ethnic or religious intolerance. Religious and ethnic minority groups, such as Tibetan Buddhists and Uighur Muslims, experienced discrimination throughout the country because of both their religious beliefs and their status as ethnic minorities with distinct languages and cultures. In the XUAR tension between Han Chinese and Uighur Muslims continued during the year. Tensions also continued among ethnic and religious groups in Tibetan areas, including Han, Hui, Tibetan Buddhists, and Tibetan Muslims.

Despite the labor law’s provisions against discrimination in hiring based on religious belief, some religious believers reported that they believed their employers openly discriminated against them. Some Protestant Christians claimed they were terminated by their employers due to their religious activities.

According to overseas press reports, in September unknown assailants violently attacked a Catholic nun and priest in Sichuan’s Kangding Diocese after they requested that two church properties, which had been confiscated from the diocese in the 1950s, be returned to their original owners. Local sources told the press that Sister Xie Yuming suffered wounds to the head and the chest and was still in the hospital. Father Huang Xusong suffered minor injuries.

Section IV. U.S. Government PolicyShare    

The U.S. Department of State, the embassy in Beijing, and the consulates general in Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Shenyang, and Wuhan regularly urged government officials at the central and local levels to implement stronger protections for religious freedom. The U.S. ambassador met with members of religious groups and religious freedom defenders and highlighted religious freedom in public speeches and private diplomacy with senior officials. At the same time, government pressure led some religious leaders to decline requests for meetings with U.S. government officials. The Department of State, the embassy, and the consulates general regularly called upon the government to release prisoners of conscience, including religious prisoners.

U.S. officials, both in the country and in the United States, met regularly with academics, NGOs, members of both registered and unregistered religious groups, and family members of religious prisoners. In September the ambassador hosted an iftar (evening meal during Ramadan) for Muslim guests, including imams from the country. The Department of State nominated a number of religious leaders and scholars from the country to participate in its International Visitor Leadership Programs related to the role of religion in American society. The Department of State also introduced government officials to officials from U.S. government agencies who engaged with American religious communities and members of those communities.

Since 1999 the secretary of state has designated the country as a “Country of Particular Concern” under the IRFA for having engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom. On August 18, the secretary redesignated the country as a CPC and extended existing economic measures in effect against the country under the IRFA related to restrictions on exports of crime control and detection instruments and equipment (Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 1990 and 1991, P.L. 101-246).