ucanews.com reporter, Hong Kong
Updated: March 11, 2019 10:27 AM GMT
Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback speaks on "Religious Freedom: Global Threats and the World's Response" at the Foreign Correspondents' Club in Hong Kong on March 8. (Photo by Anthony Wallace/AFP)
A Chinese commissioner in Hong Kong has hit back at a U.S. religious ambassador’s comments about the lack of religious freedom in China.
The office of the Commissioner of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Sam Brownback’s speech was an act which “maliciously attacks and defames Chinese religious policy and the freedom to religious belief” in the country, adding that “comment was made disregarding the facts ... and was comprised of prejudice and hostility.”
Brownback had said that China was “at war with faith” during a breakfast meeting at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Hong Kong on March 8. In his 27-minute speech, the U.S. ambassador at large for international religious freedom listed the persecution religious groups are facing amid tightened control by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
In a statement on March 9, the commissioner requested the U.S. “stop using religious issues to interfere in China’s internal affairs.”
The statement claimed that under the protection of the Chinese constitution and laws “people of all ethnicities and from all regions, including the Uyghurs and the Tibetans, enjoy full freedom of religious belief.”
Brownback had referred to the one million ethnic Muslims detained in internment camps all over Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region who are subjected to physical and psychological torture, intense political indoctrination and forced labor.
He said that “the magnitude of these detentions is completely out of proportion to any real threat China faces from extremism” when China justified what it calls vocational training camps and other repressive practices by claiming it is ruling out terrorism pre-emptively.
Brownback said the CPP was destroying churches and monasteries, banning minors from practicing their faith and inserting its influence in the selection of religious leaders.
Besides interfering in the selection of the successor to the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, the CCP is also selecting Catholic bishops through the state-controlled Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, which will provide three candidates for the Vatican’s selection when there is a vacancy, he said.
That will result in the selection of individuals whom “the CCP deems loyal to its interests,” Brownback suggested.
In an interview with the South China Morning Post, Brownback admitted that while there is currently no dialogue between the two countries on religious freedom, he believed there is no better time to press China on the issue when it remains entangled in a trade war with the U.S.