On Wednesday 24 October 2001, the Upper House of the UK Parliament, the House of Lords, debated the topic of religious liberty.

Baroness Cox started the discussion by asking the UK Government what is their response to the escalation of violations of religious liberty in many parts of the world and whether they will consider measures similar to those adopted by the United States Congress.

Baroness Cox said: Broadly, we can identify three types of ideology that are responsible for most contemporary religious persecution. The first is atheistic communism. Despite the end of the Cold War, several communist regimes persist, and they all restrict religious liberty. Examples include China, Vietnam, Laos and North Korea. In China, the state permits religious practice only in state-controlled organizations, thus controlling their leadership, meetings and teaching. Those who refuse to comply pay a high price. Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists, the Falun Gong and Christians are suffering oppression. Tens of millions are believed to be suffering harassment, fines, detention, forced labor, "re-education", imprisonment and torture. She also pointed out that at present countries of particular concern are Burma, China, Iran, Iraq and Sudan.

Lord Hylton said in both China and the former Soviet Union, there is a hang-over from earlier periods whereby governments still insist that religious groups must be registered. From that they deduce that unregistered groups must of their nature be subversive or at least constitute dangerous cults. In China this results in persecution, imprisonment, forced labor and some abuse of psychiatric hospitals. The chief sufferers are of course unregistered Christians, Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists and the Falun Gong. He asked whether the Government, in both bilateral and multilateral discussions, would work to convince China and Russia that registration is unnecessary.

Lord Grocott who represented the UK government in the discussion concluded the debate. He said: My Lords, this has indeed been an extraordinarily well-informed and wide-ranging debate. Obviously I have been taking notes as I have been going along. The countries referred to have included China, Vietnam, North Korea, India, the Sudan, Russia, Uganda, Egypt, Nigeria, Syria, Northern Ireland, Malaysia ... He mentioned that the Government was pleased to publish their fourth annual report on human rights on 17th September as a demonstration of their openness to scrutiny. The report sets out some of the actions that they have taken to promote religious freedoms in, for instance, Turkmenistan, Pakistan and China.

Source: Lords Hansard

(From http://www.clearharmony.net/articles/3764.html )