China decries religious freedom criticism from US State Dept.

A Chinese Catholic prays on Easter Sunday at the state-sanctioned Saint Ignatius Cathedral in Shanghai March 27, 2005. | Reuters/Claro Cortes IV/File Photo

China has decried the U.S. State Department's annual religious freedom report that criticizes the Communist government for its persecution of Christians and adherents of other religions.

Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson released the 2016 International Religious Freedom Report which highlighted the abuses committed by the Chinese government against Christians, Falun Gong Members, Uighur Muslims and Tibetan Buddhists.

On Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying hit back at the criticism and claimed that the government fully respected and protected freedom of religion and belief.

"The so-called U.S. report ignores the facts, confuses right and wrong and makes wanton criticism of China's religious freedom situation," Hua told a daily news briefing, as reported by Channel News Asia. "China is resolutely opposed to this and has lodged solemn representations with the U.S. side," she added.

Hua argued that the U.S. is "not totally perfect," and said that it should not use the "wrong means of the so-called religious freedom issue" to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.

An English-language commentary published by the state news agency Xinhua stated that the U.S. should focus on its own problems, pointing to the unrest that occurred at a white nationalist weekend rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The rally ended in violence after a car plowed into the counter-protesters, killing one woman and injuring 19.

"Against the backdrop of the recent clash between white supremacists and their opponents, the U.S. accusations against China simply lay bare the double standard it employs. The violence highlighted the danger of racism, which is a serious problem in a still divided U.S. society," the article stated.

"Despite its self-proclaimed role as the world's human rights champion, the fact is the world's sole superpower is far from becoming a respected role model in this regard," it added.

Bob Fu, president of persecution watchdog group China Aid, however, argued that China is "incorrect" in drawing a comparison between the two issues.

In an email to The Christian Post, Fu noted that the Chinese government is directly responsible for the abuses against religious groups, while the U.S. government is not necessarily responsible for racism.

Fu explained that the white nationalists who protested in Charlottesville were not affiliated with the government. He further noted that many U.S. officials later condemned their actions, demonstrating that the incident was not a human rights abuse that can be linked with the government.

He also pointed out that unlike China, U.S. is not trying to cover up its problems, adding that China was only able to find out about incidents like Charlottesville because the American government grants journalists the freedom to report on such events.

In China, however, that the news about human rights abuses are often provided to foreign reporters by people who risk their own safety to get the information, Fu argued.

Apart from the State Department's annual report on religious freedom, other reports have also highlighted the significant levels of religious persecution in China.

In March, the Freedom House reported that 100 million people, belonging to various faith groups, including Roman Catholics and Protestant Christians, face "moderate" or "high" levels of persecution in the country.