An annual report on religious freedom around the world, issued by the US government, claims religious repression is continuing in parts of China, and in Iran, Burma, Egypt and North Korea.
Jordan and Algeria were also singled out for criticism. The report noted some improvements in Saudi Arabia and Vietnam.
Presenting the document, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke of attempts to outlaw criticism of religions under a principle known as ‘defamation of religions’, which has been championed in the UN by Islamic countries. She said, ‘The United States rejects actions that are offensive to particular religious traditions, but we do not condone the prohibition of free speech. That only weakens societies’.
The report has individual sections dealing with each country separately. In China, the report highlighted the ill treatment of the Uighur people.
‘The government reportedly continued to detain Uighur Muslim citizens for possession of unauthorised religious texts, imprison them for religious activities determined to be “extremist”, and prevent them from observing certain sacred religious traditions’, the report said.
It was also critical of the Beijing government’s handling of protests by Tibetans in March – particularly its use of ‘patriotic education campaigns’ in a bid to stifle dissent.
The report is used to compile a blacklist of ‘countries of particular concern’, which the state department announces towards the end of each year. China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Eritrea and Burma are among those who appeared on the blacklist for 2007.