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July 31, 2012

China Dismisses US Religious Freedom Report

by VOA News

China's state media are lashing out at the United States for releasing a report saying that religious freedom deteriorated in China in the past year.

In its annual report on international religious freedom, the State Department on Monday designated China as one of eight countries in which religious freedom is of "particular concern." Beijing's "official interference in the practice of Tibetan Buddhist religious traditions" had contributed to the self-immolations of at least 12 Tibetans in 2011, the report said.

A commentary in the official Xinhua news agency on Tuesday shot back, saying there is "no justification" for the report, which it said was "full of prejudice, arrogance and ignorance."

Dozens of Tibetans have set themselves on fire since 2009 to protest China's policies in Tibet. Many have accused Beijing of suppressing and eroding their culture by flooding Tibetan regions with Han Chinese, the country's main ethnic group.

China says the self-immolators, many of whom call for the freedom of Tibet, are "splittists" who are inspired by their exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

"These incidents were in fact politically motivated, as they were part of the Dalai Lama clique's scheme to internationalize the Tibet issue," the commentary said.

The State Department's report also accused China of "severely repressing" Muslims in the western region of Xinjiang, as well as cracking down on groups not affiliated with one of China's official recognized religious groups.

The annual report, which is routinely rejected by Chinese authorities as interference in their internal affairs, has since 1999 designated China as a "Country of Particular Concern" on religious freedom.