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 fell well short of internationally recognized standards.
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 beliefs and practice. These activities included assembling for religious worship, expressing religious beliefs in public and in private, and publishing religious texts.
In parts of the country, local authorities tacitly approved of or did not interfere with the activities of unregistered groups. Guangdong officials, for example, increasingly allowed unregistered places of worship to hold services provided that they remained small in scale and did not disrupt social stability. In other areas, local officials punished the same activities by restricting activities and meetings, confiscating and destroying property, physically assaulting and injuring participants, or imprisoning leaders and worshippers. In some parts of the country, authorities charged religious believers not affiliated with a patriotic religious association with various crimes, including “illegal religious activities” or “disrupting social stability.” Local authorities often pressured unaffiliated religious believers to affiliate with patriotic associations and used administrative detention, including confinement and abuse at Reeducation Through Labor (RTL) camps, to punish members of unregistered religious or spiritual groups.
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.”
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.
According to Legal Daily, the MPS directly administered 24 high-security psychiatric hospitals for the criminally insane (also known as ankang facilities). Unregistered religious believers and Falun Gong adherents were among those reported to be held solely for political or religious reasons in these institutions, along with mentally ill patients. 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 nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and international media reported that detentions of Falun Gong practitioners continued to increase around sensitive dates. Authorities reportedly instructed some neighborhood communities to report Falun Gong members to officials and offered monetary rewards 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. Reports from overseas Falun Gong-affiliated advocacy groups estimated that thousands of adherents in the country had been sentenced to RTL. The media reported allegations of Falun Gong practitioners held without trial at the Masanjia Labor Camp in Liaoning Province.
Individuals belonging to or supporting other banned groups were imprisoned or administratively sentenced to RTL on charges such as “distributing evil cult materials” or “using a heretical organization to subvert the law.”
In June 11-year-old Uighur Muslim Mirzahid Amanullah Shahyari died while in the custody of Korla police following a raid on an unregistered religious school in Nurbagh Township, Shayar County, in Aksu Prefecture. Authorities forced his mother to bury his body, which showed signs of torture, without the remains undergoing Islamic burial rites.
Wang Yonghang, a lawyer who openly advocated for religious freedom and defended Falun Gong practitioners, was subjected to torture in prison, where he has been serving a seven-year sentence since 2009 for “using a cult to undermine implementation of the law.” As of June, he was reportedly suffering from multiple ailments, including tuberculosis, internal fluid buildup, and paralysis below the waist.
In April 2011 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. The detained leaders have since been released but officials continue to impose these restrictions.
In April police in Ye County, Henan Province, detained seven house church Christians and later accused them of being members of the banned group, “the Shouters,” a charge they denied. In October the Ye County Procuratorate indicted them on charges of “using a cult meeting to interfere with law enforcement.”
In May authorities in Shunle County, Kashgar Prefecture, sentenced Uighur Muslim Sidik Kurban to 15 years in jail and five years’ deprivation of political rights for overseeing illegal home-based religious schools throughout the region. In June authorities in Hotan Prefecture sentenced Uighur Muslim Hebibullah Ibrahim to 10 years for selling “illegal religious materials.”
In June police raided an unsanctioned Islamic religious school in Hotan. Twelve children, two school staff, and three policemen reportedly were injured in the raid. Police reportedly arrested 47 people in a subsequent crackdown following the raid on accusations of owning illegal publications and disturbing social stability.
Ablikim Abduyeyim, son of Uighur Muslim activist Rebiya Kadeer, remained in prison at year’s end. Alim Abdureyim, another son of Rebiya Kadeer, was released in December, but his movements are reportedly restricted and he is not allowed to leave Urumqi.
In July officials consecrated Joseph Yue Fusheng as a bishop in Harbin without Vatican approval. Government officials ordered seven priests in Heilongjiang Province who disagreed with the ordination to leave their parishes. Separately in Shanghai, authorities consecrated Thaddeus Ma Daqin as an auxiliary bishop with Vatican and CPA approval. Following the consecration, Ma announced that he was resigning from the CPA to focus on his religious duties. Officials detained him following the service and reportedly held him at Sheshan Catholic Seminary. His subsequent whereabouts remained unclear at year’s end, but various sources said he remained under detention by government security officials. All autumn classes at the seminary were cancelled. Catholic news sources reported that in December, the Chinese Catholic Bishops Association revoked his position as bishop, leaving 95-year-old Shanghai Bishop Alyosius Jin, the leader of one of China’s most important dioceses, without an approved successor. 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.
In July 2011 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.” Although Zhu was scheduled to be released in August, authorities transferred him to Sanshui Law School, where Falun Gong practitioners reportedly attend mandatory study sessions.
In September authorities in Inner Mongolia sentenced Sun Yuefen and Ren Zhimin to two years in an RTL camp after they offered free medical services and evangelized to patients. Other Christian participants in the activities also faced detention.
In October authorities detained Falun Gong practitioner Chen Linfen in Fujian’s Zhangzhou No. 1 Detention Center after three police and one staff member of the local Residence Committee ransacked her house and confiscated Falun Gong books, according to online accounts.
In November Beijing police arrested Zhang Fengying during a grocery shopping trip after she spoke to local residents about the benefits of practicing Falun Gong, according to her daughter. Zhang was later charged with “using an evil cult” to undermine law enforcement.
There was no new information about the November 2011 arrest of Falun Gong practitioner Tan Kaiqing or the August 2011 arrests of Liu Shaozai and Mai Weilian, also Falun Gong practitioners.
In December police in at least nine provinces arrested approximately 1000 adherents of the Church of the Almighty God, also known as Eastern Lightning, for aggressively proselytizing and manipulating fear of an apocalypse on December 21 to further their aims. The government, which has labeled the millenarian sect an “evil cult,” launched a media campaign against its members for rumor mongering and swindling people.
On December 8, overseas media reported that police seized Christian missionary Cao Nan and 10 others while Cao was preaching in Shenzhen's Lizhi Park during new Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping’s visit to the city. One week later, police seized and then detained Cao for 13 days after he returned to the park to preach.
At year’s end, Alimujiang 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.” In August a Beijing-based attorney attempted to meet with him, but was ultimately denied access. He was sentenced in December 2009 by the Kashgar Prefecture Intermediate People’s Court; his appeal was denied in March 2010.
At year’s end, Buddhist Zen Master Wu Zeheng continued to face harassment, close monitoring, and restrictions on his movement by authorities in Guangdong Province’s Zhuhai City, according to overseas media and religious groups.
In December Shanghai security officials raided an unofficial Protestant church and detained a South Korean pastor, threatening him with deportation.
Security officials frequently interrupted outdoor services of the unregistered Shouwang church in Beijing and temporarily detained members attending those services. Authorities restricted the freedom of movement of Shouwang’s head pastor and his family 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.
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.
Officials continued to hold anti-cult education sessions and propaganda campaigns.
In Wugang City, Hunan Province, local government officials held over 30 events related to “evil cults” and disseminated publications during Chinese New Year, warning against Falun Gong and house churches. Officials required families to sign statements guaranteeing that they would not take part in the “evil cult” activities involving Falun Gong and house churches as a prerequisite for registering their children for school.
The government reportedly sought the forcible return of ethnic Uighurs living outside the country and continued to prosecute those who had been forcibly returned. Media reports indicate that in January, China sentenced two Uighurs who had been forcibly returned from Cambodia in December 2009 to life in prison.
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. In February local officials authorized the demolition of the Xin’an Three-Self Church in Huaibei city, Anhui Province. Officials later attempted to coerce church leaders into signing settlement documents agreeing to the demolition.
Pressure from authorities on large unregistered churches in Guangdong Province continued. In March Guangzhou police cut off electricity and the water supply to the 1,000-member Guangfu House Church on the grounds that the recently purchased Baiyun District facility was used for illegal gatherings, according to overseas media. Police also summoned Guangfu’s pastor for questioning. The congregation was subsequently forced to meet in hotels that sometimes canceled the reserved space because of police pressure.
In June Ministry of State Security officials shut down a training program in Guangdong's Foshan Municipality that was run by the Chinese Theological Society, a group of Hong Kong theological educators, according to online accounts.
In Guangdong’s Dongguan Municipality, police and religious authorities shut down house churches in the city’s Huangjiang, Tangxia, and Gaobu townships in August, according to overseas media, prompting house church ministers to submit an application for administrative review requesting that municipal government officials repeal the local Religious Affairs Bureau decision.
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. Uighur sources reported increased pressure in official campaigns to dissuade women from wearing religious clothing and men from wearing beards. Uighur sources also reported that recipients of public welfare stipends were asked to sign a pledge not to cover their faces for religious reasons. Hui Muslims in Ningxia, Gansu, Qinghai, and Yunnan provinces engaged in religious practice with less government interference than did Uighurs.
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 13,800 Muslim citizens participated in the Hajj in the fall, flown on 41 specially arranged Hajj charter flights, although this number included Islamic association and security officials sent to monitor Muslim citizens and prevent unauthorized pilgrimages. Uighur Muslims separately reported difficulties taking part in state-sanctioned Hajj travel due to the inability to obtain travel documents in a timely manner, difficulties in meeting criteria required for participation in the official Hajj program run by the Islamic Association of China, and quotas on the number of travelers 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 February Chinese authorities launched a week-long campaign to prevent illegal religious activities through the use of “patriotic education.”
In July and August authorities in the XUAR imposed stricter controls on religious practices during Ramadan. The government barred teachers, professors, civil servants, and Communist Party members from fasting and attending religious services at mosques. Local authorities reportedly fined people for studying the Quran in unauthorized sessions, detained people for “illegal” religious activities or carrying “illegal” religious materials, and stationed security personnel in and around mosques to restrict attendance to local residents. According to Uighur social media sites, in December authorities in Yengisher County forced all of the Uighur teachers at the August First Middle School to sign letters pledging not to believe in religion or participate in religious activities.
Despite widespread reports of prohibitions on children participating in religious activities in various localities throughout the XUAR, observers reported seeing children in mosques and at Friday prayers in some areas of the region.
Islamic schools in Yunnan Province were reluctant to accept ethnic Uighur students out of concerns that they would bring unwanted attention from government authorities and negatively impact school operations.
Tight restrictions on the exchanges of monks among Tibetan Buddhist monasteries affected the quality of Tibetan religious education. Ethnic Han who wished to study Tibetan Buddhism in Tibetan areas often were denied permission for long-term study there.
Several religious groups reported that authorities rejected their applications for registration 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 various areas throughout the country, local officials disrupted religious meetings in private homes, detained participants, and confiscated materials and equipment.
The government rejected repeated applications to register the Bimo shamanistic religion, practiced by many of the eight million ethnic Yi living in southwest China. This limited the Yi people’s ability to preserve their religious heritage.
Officials employed a combination of persuasion, coercion, and physical abuse to pressure unofficial churches to affiliate with the TSPM.
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 sale of the Quran.
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 in obtaining passports or official approval to study abroad.
Authorities periodically blocked the blogs of a number of religious groups and individuals during the year.
In some instances foreign groups had to apply for special access to religious facilities.
The Falun Gong also reported several incidents of the government's interference with its activities abroad. According to NGO reports, the Shen Yun Performing Arts Company, and several media outlets, government officials pressured venues and governments in a number of countries to limit the broadcast time of Falun Gong-associated radio stations and cancel or otherwise delay Shen Yun music and dance performances.
Registered religious groups provided social services throughout the country, and authorities allowed certain overseas faith-based aid groups 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.
Although authorities required CCP members to be atheists and generally discouraged them 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.
For information on North Korean refugees in China, please see the U.S. Department of State’s 2012 Country Report on Human Rights Practices in China and the 2012 International Religious Freedom Report on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.