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Chinese people have freedom of religion, US should stop using issue of religion to interfere: China

Trump meets victims of religious persecution at the Oval Office Photograph:( Reuters )

Reuters Washington Jul 18, 2019, 03.53 PM (IST)

China demanded the US on Thursday to stop interfering in its internal affairs, after President Donald Trump met Chinese Uighur and other religious persecution victims at the White House.

Trump, who has made religious freedom a centerpiece of his foreign policy, met with victims of religious persecution from countries including China, Turkey, North Korea, Iran and Myanmar.

Trump counts evangelical Christians among his core supporters and the State Department is hosting a conference on the topic this week that will be attended by Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

"I must point out that in China this situation of so-called religious persecution does not exist," China's foreign ministry spokesman Geng Suang said. 

"Chinese people have freedom of religion. The United States have arranged for people from the evil cult of Falun Gong and people who smear China's religious policy to take part in the so-called religious meeting, and arranged them to meet with the US leader," the foreign ministry spokesman added. 

Four of the 27 participants in the Oval Office meeting were from China, the White House said: Jewher Ilham, an Uighur Muslim; Yuhua Zhang, a Falun Gong practitioner; Nyima Lhamo, a Tibetan Buddhist; and Manping Ouyang, a Christian.

Ilham told Trump her father was one of many Uighurs "locked up in concentration camps" in the Xinjiang region and that she had not spoken with him since 2017.

"This is an interference in China's internal affairs. China expresses strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition to this. We demand that the United States correctly views China's religious policies and the status of religious freedom in China, and stop using the issue of religion to interfere in other countries' affairs," Geng said. 

The Trump administration has been weighing sanctions against Chinese officials over the treatment of the Uighurs, including the Communist Party chief of Xinjiang, Chen Quanguo, but has so far held back amid Chinese threats of retaliation.

Relations between the United States and China are already tense over a tit-for-tat trade war, with the United States alleging that China engages in unfair trading practices.

Story highlights

Trump, who has made religious freedom a centerpiece of his foreign policy, met with victims of religious persecution from countries including China, Turkey, North Korea, Iran and Myanmar.