- - Thursday, August 2, 2012

BEIJING — China said Tuesday that a U.S. report describing repression of religion in China and elsewhere is a political tool based on groundless accusations that displays Washington’s arrogance and ignorance.

The annual State Department report released Monday highlighted what it said was a lack of religious freedom in China as well as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and North Korea.

It said there had been “a marked deterioration during 2011 in the government’s respect for and protection of religious freedom” in China, and that there is “severe” repression of religious freedom in Tibetan areas and the far western region of Xinjiang, home to a significant number of Muslims.

Self-immolations have surged in Tibetan areas of China since 2011, and the report said that tightened restrictions on Buddhist worship contributed to at least 12 cases last year.

The Chinese response was in the form of a commentary published by the official Xinhua News Agency, which said the report was “continuing a notorious practice of blatantly interfering in the internal affairs of other countries.”

20 imprisoned on terrorism, separatism

BEIJING — China has sentenced 20 people to up to 15 years in prison for terrorist or separatist crimes in the far western region of Xinjiang.

The state-run Xinjiang Daily said Thursday that courts in Aksu, Kashgar and Urumqi heard five cases involving the 20 people, who were found to have used the Internet and removable storage devices to organize, lead and participate in terrorist groups.

The courts said the people advocated violence and separatism and that four of them made illegal explosives, Xinjiang Daily reported.

Xinjiang is home to a large population of minority Uighurs, but is ruled by China’s ethnic majority Hans.

It has been the scene of numerous violent incidents in recent years, including ethnic riots in Urumqi in 2009 that left nearly 200 people dead.

The newspaper named only five people, all of whom had Uighur names.


Foreign charities told to stop helping Rohingya

DHAKA — Bangladesh has ordered three international charities to stop providing aid to Rohingya refugees who cross the border to flee persecution and violence in Myanmar, an official said Thursday.

France’s Doctors Without Borders and Action Against Hunger, as well as Britain’s Muslim Aid, have been told to suspend their services in the Cox’s Bazar district bordering Myanmar, local administrator Joynul Bari said.

“The charities have been providing aid to tens of thousands of undocumented Rohingya refugees illegally. We asked them to stop all their projects in Cox’s Bazar,” Mr. Bari told Agence France-Presse.

He said the charities “were encouraging an influx of Rohingya refugees” from across the border in Myanmar’s Rakhine state in the wake of recent sectarian violence that left at least 80 people dead.

The charities have provided health care, skills training, emergency food and drinking water to the refugees living in Cox’s Bazar since the early 1990s.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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