The second annual report from the U.S. State Department's Office of International Religious Freedom marks China, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, and Myanmar, as some of the most repressive nations in the world. The report, released September 6—just as the U.S. Senate begins to debate granting Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) status to China—details "marked deterioration" of religious freedoms in mainland China during the past year.This information is expected to be a topic of conversation when Chinese President Jiang Zemin meets with Bill Clinton on Friday. Jiang, visiting the United States for the United Nation's Millennium Summit, is scheduled to dialogue with Clinton about trade and other concerns for an hour. In China more than 35,000 Falun Gong practitioners have been arrested this year—5,000 of whom have been sent to labor camps. Protestants and Catholics who meet in unofficial house churches have suffered heavily as well, according to recent news of beatings, imprisonment, and property destruction.The report also criticized Iraq for conducting a "brutal campaign of murder, summary execution, and protracted arbitrary detention against religious leaders and adherents of the majority Shiite population."Afghanistan persecuted Shiite Muslims, as well, with public executions, floggings and amputations for any failing to follow its strict interpretation of Islamic shari'a law. In Myanmar, Christian members of the ethnic Chin minority were coerced to convert to Buddhism, and Buddhist monks who promoted human rights were arrested and their monasteries destroyed. Communist countries such as Vietnam, Cuba, and North Korea were cited for numerous cases of religious repression, as were U.S.-friendly nations like Saudi Arabia, ...1
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