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.