(Clearwisdom.net) On Wednesday, September 15, the U.S. Department of State issued its sixth annual Report on International Religious Freedom. Country by country, this report documents the conditions of religious freedom around the world. Because of its persecution of Falun Gong and other religious groups, China is once again identified what the U.S. Department of States refers to as Countries of Particular Concern, governments that engage in or tolerate gross infringements of religious freedom. Besides China, four countries including Burma, Iran, North Korea and Sudan have been re-designated in a list for continuing to violate their citizens' religious liberty.

According to Radio Free Asia's report on September 15, the U.S. Department of State's Report on International Religious Freedom includes 192 individual countries and areas on the status of religious freedom. The China section of the report contains more than 40 pages.

The U.S. State Department's report pointed out that although the Chinese Constitution provides for freedom of religious belief and the freedom not to believe; however, the Government seeks to control the growth and scope of activities of religious groups. The Government's respect for freedom of religion and freedom of conscience remained poor, especially for many unregistered religious groups and spiritual movements such as the Falun Gong. Unregistered religious groups continued to experience varying degrees of official interference and harassment. Members of some unregistered religious groups were subjected to restrictions, including intimidation, harassment, and detention.

The report stated, "The Government continued its repression of groups that it categorized as 'cults' in general and of the Falun Gong in particular. The arrest, detention, and imprisonment of Falun Gong practitioners continued. Practitioners who refuse to recant their beliefs are sometimes subjected to harsh treatment in prisons and reeducation-through-labor camps and there have been credible reports of deaths due to torture and abuse. Christian-based groups that the Government considered cults were subjected to increased government scrutiny during the period covered by this report."

Falun Gong practitioner Mr. Erping Zhang from the U.S. expressed that over the past year, the Chinese (Jiang's) regime did not reduce its persecution of Falun Gong.

He said, "From many human rights reports, we have seen that the (Jiang group's) persecution of Falun Gong has been escalating. Not only those who practice at home but also the practitioners' family members and friends all experienced interference and harassment. For instance, for people who practice Falun Gong in the U.S., their family members who reside in China also experienced pressure from the government. They persuaded their overseas family members not to practice Falun Gong under the pressure. Even worse, some family members were even forced to monitor practitioners' activities."

Mr. Zhang said that it often occurred that Falun Gong practitioners died as a result of the persecution by the Chinese government (Jiang's regime). He said, "No matter whether the persecution is against Falun Gong or against other religious groups, it implies the government's fear of common people, because what a person who believes in Truthfulness, Compassion and Tolerance seeks are ideas from the ancient Chinese culture. The Tao school emphasizes cultivating 'truthfulness', the Buddha school emphasizes cultivating 'compassion' and all of the various schools of thought emphasize cultivating 'tolerance'. These are the Chinese traditional virtues. If they are suppressed in a society, it indicates that the regime does not believe in Truthfulness, Compassion and Tolerance. Otherwise, there is no need to suppress Truthfulness, Compassion and Tolerance. Only when it is opposite to Truthfulness, Compassion and Tolerance, would it oppress the ideas of Truthfulness, Compassion and Tolerance."

The U.S. Report on International Religious Freedom stated that religious freedom is a universal value, and almost all of the world's nations have signed one or more international agreements committing them to respect individual freedom of thought, conscience and belief. The report pointed out that religious liberty is the first freedom of the human soul and we continue to strive, at home and abroad, to uphold religious freedom as the universal right that it is.

The full content of the Report on International Religious Freedom can be found at: http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2004/index.htm

The full report on China may be found: http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2004/35396.htm