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U.S. should self-reflect before questioning China's religious freedom
April 08,2019   By:CGTN
Editor's Note: Adam Garrie is the director of the UK-based global policy and analysis think tank Eurasia Future and co-host of talk show "The History Boys." The article reflects the author's opinion, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.
 
April 8, 2019 -- Article 36 of China's Constitution reads as follows:
 
"Citizens of the People's Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief.
 
No State organ, public organization or individual may compel citizens to believe in, or not believe in, any religion; nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in, or do not believe in, any religion.
 
The State protects normal religious activities. No one may make use of religion to engage in activities that disrupt public order, impair the health of citizens or interfere with the educational system of the State.
 
Religious bodies and religious affairs are not subject to any foreign domination."
 
The First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States reads as follows:
 
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." 
 
Thus, one sees that the constitutions of both China and the United States guarantee that the state shall not be governed by an established religion and that law-abiding citizens have the right to exercise religious practices without facing discrimination.
 
Why then does the United States accuse China of violating article 36 of its Constitution when it is in fact the United States which often disregards its own Constitution's first amendment?
 
Contrary to the first amendment, there are multiple religious symbols and statements inscribed on government-owned buildings including courthouses and legislatures, whilst a religious phrase is written on American currency. In the United States, there have likewise been pitched battles about whether religion should be taught in public schools. Finally, it is very common for American politicians to invoke religion during public speeches.
 
If the U.S. chooses not to enforce elements of its own Constitution this is not the problem of any foreign government. To this end, no Chinese official has ever criticized the United States for failing to enforce elements of its own laws which prohibit the fusing of religion with the state.
 
In spite of China's consistent policy of non-interference in any foreign country, the United States has taken it upon itself to criticize the Chinese government due to its alleged treatment of its Muslim minority. And yet whilst the U.S. continues to operate the Guantanamo Bay concentration camp which is home to mostly Muslim men who remain imprisoned without trial, China has worked with the Muslim community in places like Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in order to strengthen community cohesion and teach people valuable economic skills that can be used to enrich the lives of their families and neighbors.
 
In spite of this, the world continues to witness the awkward situation of America making derogatory comments about Xinjiang's schooling and vocational facilities that actually apply to Guantanamo Bay.
 
The truth of the matter is that China understands that religion, like other belief systems, can be exploited by criminal forces that seek to provoke bloodshed among mankind. As such, China has taken an attitude towards counter-extremism that prioritizes peace through prosperity and good social cohesion over social fragmentation.
 
Within this framework, it is important to remember that China is home to many mosques that have a longer history than that of the United States itself. The Chinese government and its minority of Muslim citizens, therefore, do not need hectoring lectures from abroad on how to best shape their society on the basis of peaceful people-to-people connectivity.
 
In the United States, multiple political policy debates continue to be framed around a religious context in spite of a clear domestic legal prohibition of such things. China, by contrast, continues to adhere to the letter and spirit of its own laws whilst refraining from meddling in the affairs of others. No amount of emotional hysteria can change this fact.

By: Adam Garrie
Chinese Dictionary:

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