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China Blasts US For Religious Freedom Remark
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China on Monday denounced the US' criticism of China's religion policy and freedom, saying the "groundless" remark, in violation of international norms, amounted to "interference in China's internal affairs."

"China is strongly dissatisfied and resolutely opposed to the US accusation of the country in its religious freedom report," Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in a statement.

Qin's comments came in the wake of the US State Department's International Religious Freedom Report 2006, which was released last Friday.

The annual report was quoted by the Associated Press as saying that "the Chinese government's respect for freedom of religion and freedom of conscience remained poor."

"That's a groundless criticism of China's religion policy and situation of religious freedom," Qin said.

"It violates the basic norms guiding international relations and interferes with China's internal affairs," the spokesman said.

It is an indisputable fact that the Chinese government protects the citizens' freedom of religious belief in accordance with laws, and Chinese people of all ethnic groups enjoy full freedom of religious belief according to laws, Qin stressed.

He demanded the US side "face squarely" its own problems including religious freedom violations and stop interfering in China's domestic affairs.

China has more than 100 million people who practice a religion, more than 100,000 venues for religious activities, and about 300,000 clergy members, according to official statistics.

Normal religious ceremonies or rituals conducted by ministers and all other normal religious activities -- carried out either in venues for religious activities or homes of religious adherents in accordance with religious tradition -- are taken care of by believers themselves and protected by law.

(Xinhua News Agency September 19, 2006)

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