China protests US criticism of policies on religion

Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback. (File/AFP)
Updated 10 March 2019

China protests US criticism of policies on religion

  • The foreign ministry’s office in Hong Kong said the speech Sam Brownback gave Friday “slandered” China’s religious policies
  • US officials and UN experts say China is believed to be holding 1 million Uighurs

HONG KONG: China has issued a protest over remarks the US ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom made criticizing Beijing’s polices toward Muslim and Tibetan Buddhist minorities and saying the country was “at war with faith.”
The foreign ministry’s office in Hong Kong said the speech Sam Brownback gave Friday “slandered” China’s religious policies. It said it had registered its dissatisfaction Saturday with the US Consulate in the semi-autonomous Chinese region, where the speech was given.
China’s constitution and laws protect freedom of religion and critics should “cease their slander of China’s policies on religion and the situation with freedom of faith and cease using religious issues to interfere in China’s internal affairs,” the office said in a statement.
US officials and UN experts say China is believed to be holding 1 million Uighurs, Muslims and members of other majority Muslim ethnic groups in political education camps in Xinjiang. The US and other governments have criticized the crackdown.
The Chinese government says those camps are vocational training centers designed to rid the region of extremism.
Brownback said President Donald Trump’s administration is “deeply concerned and considered it a deliberate attempt by Beijing to redefine and control these Muslim minority groups, (their) identity, culture and faith.”
He urged Beijing to grant free access to the camps to investigate claims of abuse of inmates.
More generally, Brownback said, China is “at war with faith.”
“It’s a war they will not win,” he said. “The Chinese Communist Party must hear the cry of its people for religious freedom.”
Brownback was expected to meet local religious leaders and religious studies students and instructors while in Hong Kong. The territory enjoys freedom of speech and religion far beyond that in mainland China, where the officially atheist government keeps tight control over any potential challenges to its authority.
Brownback, the former governor of Kansas, was due to travel to Taiwan for a regional meeting on religious freedom Monday.
In his speech, the Catholic conservative called on China to release Wang Yi and John Cao Sanqiang, detained pastors in the “underground” church that operates independently of official government agencies.


Key hospitals in Indian Kashmir treat more than 150 tear gas, pellet injuries

Updated 19 min 3 sec ago

Key hospitals in Indian Kashmir treat more than 150 tear gas, pellet injuries

  • People gathered in groups despite the ban on public gatherings
  • The government has not provided any number of injuries
SRINAGAR, India: At least 152 people have suffered injuries from tear gas and pellets in disputed Kashmir since Indian security forces this month launched a sweeping crackdown, data from the Himalayan region’s two main hospitals shows.
Indian authorities have deployed additional paramilitary police, banned public gatherings and cut cellular and Internet links to prevent large scale protests after withdrawing the revolt-torn territory’s special status on Aug 5.
Still, people especially youth, have come out in the lanes of the region’s key city of Srinagar, on occasions such as Friday prayers or Eid this month, throwing stones, prompting retaliatory action by security forces.
Data obtained by Reuters showed 152 people reported to Srinagar’s Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences and Shri Maharaj Hari Singh with injuries from pellet shots and tear gas fire between Aug 5 and Aug 21.
The government, which has not yet provided any figures of the injured in the sporadic protests, has said there have been no deaths in this month’s demonstrations in a region where more than 50,000 have died since an armed revolt broke out in 1989.
India hopes that withdrawal of special privileges for Kashmir, such as exclusive rights to land, government jobs and college places and opening them up to people from the rest of the country will help to integrate the territory.
Pakistan lays claim to Muslim-majority Kashmir and has condemned the decision to change its status.
A local government official in Jammu and Kashmir, however, said the number of injured was probably higher than the figures from the two hospitals.
Many of those who were discharged within hours do not feature in their list, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, while others, with wounds treated at smaller hospitals, remain unaccounted for.