June 13, 2006

China rejects US criticisms on religious freedom

BEIJING (Reuters) - China dismissed U.S. resolutions
criticizing it for religious persecution on Tuesday, saying it
was based on "groundless accusations" and constituted
interference in its internal affairs.

The U.S. House of Representatives approved resolutions on
Monday that condemned what it said were escalating levels of
religious persecution in China and rejected the state-sponsored
ordination of Catholic leaders.

"Chinese citizens enjoy full and broad freedom of religious
belief in accordance with the law," Foreign Ministry
spokeswoman Jiang Yu told a news conference, adding that China
expressed its "strong dissatisfaction" with the resolutions.

"We advise some in the United States Congress to pay more
attention their own problems and think about how to resolve
their own human rights issues," Jiang said.

The United States has been taking an increasing interest in
China's religious affairs, with President George W. Bush
attending a Christian service in Beijing during his visit in
November and hosting Chinese Christian dissidents at the White
House in May.

The House criticism also follows Pope Benedict's public
censure of China last month for installing bishops without the
Holy See's approval.

China broke ties with the Vatican shortly after the
Communist government came to power in 1949 and moves toward
rapprochement have been complicated by the bishops'

China has some 10 million Catholics who are split between
an underground church loyal to the Holy See and the official
church, whose members lack formal ties to the Vatican.

It also has thousands of Christian "house churches"
springing up in the countryside in the shadows of official