US envoy praises Taiwan's religious freedom

World | 11 Mar 2019 3:34 pm

Taiwan serves as an example as China in ensuring religious freedom, visiting U.S. ambassador for religious freedom said today at the opening of the first-ever regional religious freedom forum co-organized by the two countries.

Asked about the role Taiwan can play to improve religious freedom in China, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback said Taiwan, as a well-functioning society with religious freedom, is well-equipped to fulfill this role.

Brownback said that contrary to Chinese fears, religious freedom does not undermine any government's interactions with Taiwan.

"It [religious freedom] is not a threat to governments. I don't understand why in China they think it's a threat," Brownback said, adding that being open to all religious beliefs is in fact a society building block.

Asked how the world can help to ease the suffering of religious people in China, Brownback said that building an alliance to stand for religious freedom is a first important step, describing the forum as a perfect example.

Brownback said the idea of religious freedom is not new, as it is stated in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations General Assembly, as well as in China's own Constitution.

However, the Beijing administration has continued to engage in systematic oppression of all religious beliefs, including China's recent campaign of assimilation targeting the Uighur people and other Muslims in Xinjiang province.

In the face of accusations from the international community, however, China continues to deny such wrongdoings, calling them groundless, he noted.

But Brownback said he has been getting lists of names of Chinese Muslims who he said have lost contact with their families in Xinjiang.

"Where are they? What is happening to them? Why can't their families find them?" he asked Beijing.

Brownback made the comments during a press event in Taipei on the sidelines of the regional religious freedom forum co-hosted by Taiwan and the U.S, titled "Civil Society Dialogue on Securing Religious Freedom in the Indo-Pacific Region."

In a keynote speech during the forum, Brownback said freedom of religion has been limited worldwide, as around 80 percent of people around the globe currently think they live in a restricted religious atmosphere.

Such oppression of religious freedom has been found in Vietnam, Indonesia, Myanmar and China in the region.

"What we can do here in Taiwan should be the norm in the rest of the world," he said.

Meanwhile, as this year marks the 60th anniversary of the uprising in Tibet against Chinese rule in 1959, Brownback said the U.S. continues to support Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama's "middle way" approach.

He said the U.S. supports the desire of the Dalai Lama, who was forced into exile due to Chinese oppression, to return to Tibet, while urging China to resume official dialogue with him.

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