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Hong Kong government denounces ‘slander’ in American report that restricts religious freedom in the city

Hong Kong government denounces ‘slander’ in American report that restricts religious freedom in the city
Hong Kong government denounces ‘slander’ in American report that restricts religious freedom in the city

Hong Kong’s government has criticized a US report on religious freedom for attacking freedom of expression and belief in the city.

Authorities said Saturday they rejected the “defamatory remarks” in the U.S. State Department’s report on international religious freedom, which downgraded the city’s rating “due to evidence that the broader crackdown on dissent has led some churches to self-censor sermons and restrict other religious activities.”

According to the report published on Wednesday, religious groups in Hong Kong faced government retaliation for their participation in social movements.

The report cited an article by US non-governmental organisation Freedom House, which downgraded Hong Kong’s rating for freedom of expression and belief from a high of 4 in 2022 to 3 in 2023.

Each jurisdiction receives zero to four points for various rights indicators.

The report said the Falun Gong spiritual movement faced counter-demonstrations and intimidation from groups with ties to the Chinese Communist Party, while the Hong Kong Taoist Association canceled a planned parade after their request to hold the event was not approved.

The report also noted that Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, the former Catholic bishop of Hong Kong and an “outspoken defender of civil rights,” was still awaiting trial on suspicion of conspiring with foreign forces.

Religious leaders also reported organizing more interfaith activities that were characterized as patriotic.

“Amid controversy among their members over the separation of church and state, the Buddhist Association, the Anglican Church and the Muslim community flew flags of the People’s Republic of China in September and October to celebrate the (Chinese) National Day,” the report said.

“Religious leaders made statements about the role of religion in supporting government and promoting patriotism and national prosperity.”

Hong Kong’s government has rejected repeated US attempts to defame the city “under the guise of religious freedom by piling on false narratives and fabricated stories,” a spokesperson said. Photo: Jelly Tse

In response, a spokesperson for the Hong Kong government said it rejects repeated US attempts to defame the city “under the guise of religious freedom by piling up false narratives and fabricated stories.”

“As always, Hong Kong residents enjoy the rights and freedoms, including freedom of religion and freedom of expression, under the Basic Law, the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance and other relevant laws,” he said.

“The law enforcement agencies… have taken law enforcement actions based on evidence and in strict accordance with the law… such actions have nothing to do with… political attitude, background or profession.”

The spokesperson also emphasized that the Hong Kong judiciary will not treat cases differently because of the background of the person involved.

“The administration strongly urges the US to immediately stop acting contrary to international law and basic norms of international relations and interfering in Hong Kong-related matters, which are solely China’s internal affairs.” , he said.