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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

United States slams poor religious freedom in Myanmar, China and North Korea

September 15, 2007

WASHINGTON, Saturday, September 15, 2007 (AP) -- China continued to repress Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, Uighurs and the Falun Gong spiritual group over the past year, the U.S. State Department said Friday in a report that criticized an apparent crack down by authorities ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The annual International Religious Freedom report also slammed Myanmar and North Korea for persecuting people because of their religious faiths.

China's respect for religious freedom remained poor, the report said, noting little evidence that recent regulations on religious affairs had led to improvement.

In most areas, the State Department said, believers could pray without difficulty in officially approved places. But others faced persecution, according to the executive summary of the report, obtained by The Associated Press ahead of its official release by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

The report raised China's arrest, fines and reported torture of the sons of a Uighur Muslim activist. Beijing blames Uighur separatists for sporadic bombings and other violence.

Chinese guards, the report said, shot and killed a 17-year-old Tibetan nun as she tried to cross into Nepal. China has been accused of attacking Tibetan Buddhism -- the foundation of most Tibetans' identity -- by enforcing strict controls and vilifying the Dalai Lama.

Beijing has reportedly expelled more than 100 foreign missionaries in what critics say is an effort to "tighten control on Christian house churches prior to the 2008 Olympics," the report said.

Members of the Falun Gong spiritual sect, which China calls an "evil cult," faced arrest, detention, and "there have been credible reports of deaths due to torture and abuse."

In Myanmar, the report said, a repressive military regime frequently abused citizens' rights to pray. While most registered believers could worship, "the government continued to infiltrate and monitor activities of virtually all organizations, including religious ones." The regime restricted Buddhist priests from promoting human rights and political freedom, the report said.

Christians and non-Buddhist groups were said to have faced restrictions and anti-Muslim violence continued.

North Korea has no genuine religious freedom, the report said, although a cult of personality around North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and his father at times resembles the tenets of a state religion.

The report mentioned the case of Son Jong Nam, a North Korean sentenced to death for espionage but said by others to be condemned because of his contacts with Christian groups.

Vietnam was praised for an improved respect for religious freedom, better implementation of recent ordinances on religion and many new churches registered throughout the country.

Still, problems remained, the report said, including restrictions on religious recruitment and bureaucratic delays and impediments.

In Laos, the report said respect for non-Protestant groups appeared to get a bit better, but Protestant groups' situation worsened.

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