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I refer to JS’ latest letter, ‘Do foreigners have rights in S’pore?’ He asserts that foreigners have “human rights” but not “political rights”. According to him, foreigners cannot be allowed to preach their religion and politics to Singaporeans. At the same time, however, he champions Singapore’s right to support the US invasion of Iraq and our right to do business with the Burmese junta government.
I reply not to his above views about the right of foreign intervention but to his assertion that there is widespread religious freedom in China today. Unlike during the Cultural Revolution where religious practitioners are openly flogged in public, China now conduct their suppression of religious freedom in less blatant, but no less effective, fashion.
In January this year, AFP reported that Chinese police arrested a monk in Tibet for having a portrait of the Dalai Lama. Phuntsok Tsering, the chant master of Magar Dhargyeling Monastery, was arrested in December “on the charge of possessing a portrait of the Dalai Lama.”
And here are excerpts the 2004 International Religious Freedom report on China.
“Some local authorities continued a selective crackdown on unregistered churches, temples, and mosques, and the Central Government failed to stop these activities. Police closed underground mosques, temples, and seminaries, as well as some Catholic churches and Protestant “house churches,” many with significant memberships, properties, financial resources, and networks.”
“Members of some unregistered religious groups, including Protestant and Catholic groups, were subjected to restrictions, including intimidation, harassment, and detention.”
“In some areas, security authorities used threats, demolition of unregistered property, extortion, interrogation, detention, and at times beatings and torture to harass leaders of unauthorized groups and their followers. Many religious leaders and adherents have been detained, arrested, or sentenced to prison terms.”
“Some foreign missionaries whose activities extended beyond the expatriate community were expelled or asked to leave the country. In addition foreign-produced materials about modern Christianity in the country, including the documentary film “The Cross” and the book “Jesus in Beijing,” were banned by the Government. Some Christians who appeared in the film were interrogated or detained by authorities for brief periods.”
“In some predominantly Muslim areas where ethnic unrest has occurred, especially in Xinjiang among the Uighurs, officials continued to restrict or tightly control religious expression and teaching.”
“According to Falun Gong practitioners in the United States, since 1999 more than 100,000 practitioners have been detained for engaging in Falun Gong practices. The organization reports that its members have been subject to excessive force, abuse, detention, and torture, and that some of its members have died in custody.”
“In August 2003, five monks and an unidentified lay artist received sentences of 1 to 12 years’ imprisonment for alleged separatist activities, including painting a Tibetan national flag, possessing pictures of the Dalai Lama, and distributing materials calling for Tibetan independence.”
“Core requirements of “patriotic education,” such as the renunciation of the Dalai Lama and the acceptance of Tibet as a part of China, continued to engender resentment on the part of Tibetan Buddhists. Dozens of monks and nuns continued to serve prison terms for their resistance to “patriotic education.”
“In the months following an August 2003 incident in which unknown individuals hung the banned Tibetan national flag from a radio tower, private displays o Dalai Lama pictures were confiscated in urban areas of two Sichuan counties. The Government also continued to ban pictures of Gendun Choekyi Nyima, the boy recognized by the Dalai Lama as the Panchen Lama.”