State Dept. report hits plight of political prisoners in N. Korea, Muslim minorities in China, Burma

by WorldTribune Staff, May 29, 2018

North Korea is holding up to 120,000 political prisoners while China and Burma continue to crack down on and often brutalize religious minorities, the U.S. State Department said in its annual report on religious freedom.

‘Violence, discrimination, and harassment’ against ethnic Rohingya continues in Burma, the State Department said.

Despite North Korea’s constitutional guarantee of “the right to faith” of its citizens, a large number of prisoners are held for religious reasons and “under horrific conditions” in remote areas, according to the State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report for 2017.

A South Korean nongovernmental organization said there were 1,304 cases in North Korea of violations of the right to freedom of religion or belief in 2017, including 119 killings and 87 disappearances.

“Defector accounts indicated religious practitioners often concealed their activities from neighbors, coworkers, and other members of society due to fear their activities would be reported to the authorities,” the report said.

In China, the report says that “hundreds of thousands” of Uighur Muslims have been forcibly sent to re-education centers.

The Chinese government “continued to exercise control over religion and restrict the activities and personal freedom of religious adherents when the government perceived these as threatening state or Chinese Communist Party (CCP) interests,” the report said, citing nongovernmental organization (NGO) and international media reports.

Only religious groups belonging to one of the five state-sanctioned “patriotic religious associations” (Buddhist, Taoist, Muslim, Catholic, and Protestant) are permitted to register with the Beijing government and officially permitted to hold worship services.

“There continued to be reports the government tortured, physically abused, arrested, detained, sentenced to prison, or harassed adherents of both registered and unregistered religious groups for activities related to their religious beliefs and practices, including members of unregistered Christian churches (also known as ‘house churches’),” the report said.

In Burma, “violence, discrimination, and harassment against ethnic Rohingya, who are nearly all Muslim, and other minority populations continued,” the report said.”

Related: China blocks UN solution for Burma’s 1 million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, May 21, 2018

Approximately 688,000 individuals reportedly fled to Bangladesh due to the violence, and an unknown number were displaced internally, the report said. In late April, following protests by Buddhist nationalists, local authorities forced the closure of two madrassahs in Rangoon.

The report added that “security forces’ actions in northern Rakhine State beginning in late August resulted in widespread reports of extrajudicial killings, rapes, torture, beatings, arbitrary arrest, mass displacement, and destruction of property, which the U.S. government deemed ethnic cleansing.”

Read the full report here

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