China and the Sudan topped a list of seven nations the State Department said are of particular concern because of their poor treatment of religious believers.
WASHNGTION - China topped a list of seven nations the State Department said are of particular concern because of their poor treatment of religious believers.
The seven are potentially subject to a host of economic sanctions that the White House may apply under provisions of the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act. The president may, however, waive all sanctions for national security reasons.
The other nations named were Afghanistan, Burma, Iran, Iraq, Serbia and Sudan. The list was announced Oct 6 as a follow-up to an IRFA-mandated State Department report released in early September that detailed limitations placed on religious freedom in more than 190 nations and territories.
The seven nations on the list were among the worst violators of religious freedom, according to the report.
Steve McFarland, executive director of the Commission on Religious Freedom an independent body also mated by IRFA, praised the State Department for biting the bullet on China.
In the past China has angrily reacted to any U.S. accusation that Beijing persecutes religious believers, further complicating the delicate relationship between the two nations.
The September report accused China of government intolerance of all religious activity not officially approved by Beijing. Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, Muslims and others were said to suffer religious persecution in China. The persecution includes long prison terms and the closing of religious sites, according to the report
China dismissed those charges as false. A Chinese foreign ministry official said China persecutes only criminals.
McFarland said that merely putting China on the list was not enough. It's great that they made the correct diagnosis, but the proof of the pudding is the action taken, he said in urging the president to apply some sanctions to China.
McFarland also said the list was incomplete. He said Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Vietnam, maybe India, and several other nations should have been named using the State Department's own criteria.
IRFA requires the president to act on the sanctions provision within 90 days of release of the list
The president may, however, request a 90-day extension to review a nation's attempts to respond to the accusations.
IRFA's list of possible sanctions includes cutting off all U.S. development and security assistance; stopping U.S. bank loans, trade credits and trade permits; and voting against international loans to an offending nation. (RNS)
Reuters News Service China and Sudan Lead Nations Cited for Religious Persecution. National Catholic Register. (Oct. 17-23, 1999).
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The editors of the National Catholic Register.Copyright © 1999 National Catholic Register
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