Female Taoist priests attended music courses this month at the Jade Spring temple in Shaanxi Province.Rooney Chen/ReutersFemale Taoist priests attended music courses this month at the Jade Spring temple in Shaanxi Province.
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HONG KONG — The United States has issued its annual report on religious freedom around the world, taking particular aim at repression and crackdowns in China, North Korea and Myanmar. China shot back that the report was “full of prejudice, arrogance and ignorance.”
“More than a billion people live under governments that systematically suppress religious freedom,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in remarks summarizing the new report.
“New technologies have given repressive governments additional tools for cracking down on religious expression,” Mrs. Clinton said. “Members of faith communities that have long been under pressure report that the pressure is rising.”
In terms of religious freedom as a human right, she said, “the world is sliding backwards.”

The report noted a rising tide of anti-Semitism around the world, “manifested in Holocaust denial, glorification, and relativism; conflating opposition to certain policies of Israel with blatant anti-Semitism; growing nationalistic movements that target ‘the other’; and traditional forms of anti-Semitism, such as conspiracy theories, acts of desecration and assault, ‘blood libel,’ and cartoons demonizing Jews.”
Four Asian countries — China, Myanmar, North Korea and Uzbekistan — were among eight nations designated by the State Department as “countries of particular concern” on religious freedom.
The China section of the new report found “a marked deterioration during 2011 in the government’s respect for and protection of religious freedom.”
It cited tightened restrictions on Buddhist clergy and worship in Tibet and Tibetan areas, saying, “Official interference in the practice of these religious traditions exacerbated grievances and contributed to at least 12 self-immolations by Tibetans in 2011.”
From the report’s separate section on Tibet: “There were numerous and severe abuses of religious freedom, including religious prisoners and detainees. Monasteries were increasingly forbidden to deliver traditional educational and medical services to the people of their communities, and official intimidation was used to compel acquiescence and preserve a facade of stability.”
Beijing continued to “severely repress Muslims” living in the Xinjiang region, and there were further crackdowns on Christian house churches, according to the report.
China issued a biting response on Tuesday, saying the U.S. report continued “a notorious practice of blatantly interfering in the internal affairs of other countries, including China, in the name of religion.” A slightly condensed excerpt from the response, published as a commentary by the official news agency Xinhua:
The annual report, largely based on unconfirmed media reports and groundless allegations from outlawed groups and organizations with ulterior motives, is nothing but a political tool used by the U.S. government to exert pressure on other countries, mostly deemed as its rivals.
The U.S. practice of releasing such a report, which is full of prejudice, arrogance and ignorance, is unimaginative and even counterproductive.
Only a few members from banned cults and illegal extremist religious organizations, which engage in illegal or splittist activities under the guise of seeking religious freedom, have been punished in China strictly according to the laws.
Falun Gong followers — there are said to be tens of millions of believers in China — were said to be especially targeted for harassment and even detention in high-security psychiatric facilities for the criminally insane, although the report acknowledged that such charges were difficult to verify.
“Some neighborhood communities reportedly were instructed to report on Falun Gong members to officials; monetary rewards were offered to citizens who informed on Falun Gong practitioners,” the report said.
The report noted that China’s central government “stated that it did not detain or arrest anyone solely because of his or her religion.”
The report found encouraging signs in China, too. Three Catholic bishops were ordained in 2011, “with the approval of both the Vatican and the official Chinese Catholic church.” Church groups were encouraged to provide social services in quake-hit areas of Sichuan Province.
In its assessment of North Korea, the U.S. report acknowledged that “little is known about the day-to-day life of religious persons in the country.” An excerpt:
Members of government-controlled religious groups did not appear to suffer discrimination, while members of underground churches or those connected to missionary activities were reportedly regarded as subversive elements. Some reports claimed, and circumstantial evidence suggested, that many if not most of the government-controlled religious organizations were created for propaganda and political purposes, including meeting with foreign religious visitors.
Some NGOs and academics estimated there may be up to several hundred thousand Christians practicing their faith underground in the country. Others questioned the existence of a large-scale underground church or concluded that it was impossible to estimate accurately the number of underground religious believers. Individual underground congregations were reportedly very small and typically confined to private homes.
Washington has welcomed recent political reforms in Myanmar, the former Burma, and Mrs. Clinton seems to have connected personally with the opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. And the State Department noted the passage of “the first law in several decades to allow peaceful assembly.”
But the report also cited ongoing and widespread abuses of religious freedoms, from arbitrary arrests of Muslims to the harassment of Baptists.
Traditional Christian and Islamic holidays continued to be controlled by the authorities, the report said. Permits to build or repair mosques were said to be rarely granted; Muslims living in Rakhine State often needed to pay bribes to get permission to travel for any purpose; and ethnic Rohingya Muslims “continued to experience the severest forms of legal, economic, educational, and social discrimination.”
An excerpt from the Myanmar report:
The government continued its efforts to exert control over the Buddhist clergy (Sangha). It tried Sangha members for “activities inconsistent with and detrimental to Buddhism” and imposed on the Sangha a code of conduct enforced by criminal penalties.
The government continued the detention, imprisonment, and interrogation of politically active Buddhist monks. In prison, some monks were defrocked and treated as laypersons. In general they were not allowed to shave their heads and were not given food compatible with the monastic code, which dictates that monks should not eat after noon. They often were beaten and forced to do hard labor.
The State Department’s report on religion is separate from its annual assessment of human rights, which was published in May.
It is also not to be confused with another report, also recently issued, by the independent federal panel known as the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.


Reason for Concern in Japanese Anti-Semitism

Published: March 25, 1987

To the Editor:
I write to commend and comment on your March 12 news article on recent Japanese anti-Semitism.
First, Japanese anti-Semitism has a long history. It stretches back to the 1870's, when Christian missionaries introduced the Japanese to an image of the Jews as a venal and despised people. This image was reinforced by Western literary works like ''The Merchant of Venice,'' the first of Shakespeare's plays to be translated into Japanese.
The notorious ''Protocols of the Elders of Zion,'' which the historian Norman Cohn has called ''a warrant for genocide,'' provides the basis for much Japanese anti-Semitic writing. This includes the currently popular books of Masami Uno (''If You Understand Judea, You Can Understand the World'' and ''If You Understand Judea, You Can Understand Japan''), the starting point for your report. The ''Protocols'' was first translated into Japanese in 1924 and continues to be reissued, most recently by the Shin-Jinbutsu Oraisha publishing company this year.
Second, anti-Semitism has greater intellectual currency and respectability in Japan than in perhaps any other industrialized society. In January 1986, an anti-Semitic novel titled ''Passover'' by a Japanese woman residing in Los Angeles won the 94th Akutagawa Prize, Japan's most prestigious literary award. It was awarded by a jury of Japan's most respected novelists and critics, headed by the Roman Catholic novelist Shusaku Endo.

Third, it should be pointed out that the Japanese have also produced voluminous legitimate scholarship on Jewish history and culture. In 1979, the annual meeting of Japanese Germanists took up the topic of ''German-Jewish Symbiosis,'' with papers on the work of Heine, Kafka, Elias Canetti and others. There was even a paper on Yiddish language and literature delivered by a Japanese Yiddishist.
The works of Elie Wiesel, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Martin Buber, Gershom Scholem and virtually every other significant Jewish author have been translated into Japanese. The work of Masanori Miyazawa should also be noted in this context. A professor of history at Doshisha Women's University in Kyoto, Masanori Miyazawa has analyzed in books and articles the long and perverse history of Japanese anti-Semitism, and has been an outspoken critic of it.


Out of Japan: Xenophobia rides on anti-Semitic tide


TOKYO - Yakir Lapiner, the guard at the Jewish Centre, called the children indoors and bolted the doors. Thugs had arrived in a large lorry adorned with swastikas and were blaring anti-Semitic propaganda from loudspeakers.
They stood for a while in front of the building, brandishing baseball bats 'as if they wanted to do something', said Mr Lapiner. Then the police arrived and the thugs drove away.
This did not take place in a ghetto in Eastern Europe in the 1930s, but in central Tokyo two months ago. It had happened several times before: usually on Hitler's birthday.
The Jewish Centre has a synagogue, a kindergarten, some offices and a bagel bakery. 'They were saying something about the Jewish conspiracy to take over the world,' said Mr Lapiner. 'After leaving us, they drove on to the Israeli Embassy.'
Japan does not seem an obvious breeding ground for anti- Semitism: there are at most 2,000 Jews living in the country, and few Japanese would be able to distinguish them from other Westerners in their midst. But although there have not yet been any physical attacks on Jews in Japan, several Jewish friends have spoken nervously about anti-Semitic demonstrations by extreme nationalists, and the appearance of a spate of anti-Semitic books blaming a Jewish conspiracy for Japan's recession.
Last week an advertisement for four anti-Semitic books appeared prominently in Yomiuri, the largest daily newspaper in Japan. Some of the books verge on the absurd: one, Rockefeller versus Rothschild, purports to explain how Zionists and big American capitalists are competing to destroy Japan, and how Jews plotted the Tiananmen Square massacre. But the fact they were advertised in a mainstream newspaper was enough to make the local rabbi, James Lebeau, send out cautionary notes to his community.
Japan has harboured theories of its racial homogeneity and uniqueness for generations, and xenophobia rides high at many levels of society. Anyone who is in some way different can face racial prejudice in this highly self-aware and inward-looking society.
With their small numbers, it is not the physical presence of Jews that incites extremists. Most of the anti-Semitic material published deals with a fuzzy notion of international Jewish financial power, not with the Jews living in Japan. It is a strange form of anti-Semitism. In some ways the Japanese look up to the supposed power of the Jewish 'financial clique'.
Some of the books simply promise to make the reader rich 'by buying the same stocks as Jews buy'.
Other publications which are freely available are more sensational.
Lucifer's Last Conspiracy, by Izumi Koishi, explains how half of humanity will be killed by 1999 and the Japanese will be made into slaves. The Rothschild Family: The Devil's Canon of the World Financial Clique, by Akira Kagami, continues the diatribe against the Rothschild family and its designs on Japan. The Jews are sneaking into Japan - what are the plans of those terrifying devils?, by Ushiyama Kaichi, begins with 'proof' that the Holocaust never happened, and then proceeds to lay out how Japan has been forced to resist Jewish domination for 2,000 years.
'The Jews serve as a rallying-point for Japanese nationalists' fears of foreigners,' said Mark Schreiber, a writer who has been keeping a record of anti-Semitic publications in Japan. He concedes that many of the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories are concocted to make money, and are made to sound sensational. But, he says: 'If enough of this hate material is generated, some of these people will snap.'
There are no laws against publishing or promoting overtly racist material in Japan, but the government is occasionally embarrassed into taking some action.
Last year Yoshiji Nogami, a Foreign Ministry official, wrote an article for Yomiuri criticising the anti-Jewish publications. He wrote: 'The open sales -and reading - of prejudice-filled low-brow anti- Jewish publications testify to the ignorance of the Japanese people. It is a disgrace.'


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