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Thursday, June 2, 2016, 17:07

'Unprecedented religious freedom in Xinjiang'

By Xinhua

'Unprecedented religious freedom in Xinjiang'
Kazakh villagers celebrate the Nowruz festival in Saerqiaoke township, in Xinjiang's Barkol Kazakh autonomous county, against a majestic backdrop. The annual festival is a holiday for Kazakh and Uygur ethnic groups and they mark it during the spring equinox, the beginning of the new year. (ZHANG JIANGANG / CHINA DAILY)

BEIJING - China on Thursday issued a white paper titled "Freedom of Religious Belief in Xinjiang," saying the freedom of religious belief in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region today "cannot be matched by that in any other historical period."

Since the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC) in 1949, the Constitutional principle of freedom of religious belief has been comprehensively implemented in Xinjiang, with the citizens' freedom of religious belief fully respected and believers' normal religious needs effectively met, said the white paper released by the State Council Information Office.

In Xinjiang, "the positive role of religious circles in promoting economic development and social stability is well displayed, the government's capability of administrating religious affairs is constantly strengthened, international exchanges in the religious field are being expanded, and the proliferation and spread of religious extremism is being effectively contained," it noted.

Historically, the white paper said, religious relations in Xinjiang were very complicated. "Religious wars and conflicts not only caused serious damage to the economy and society, but also brought grave disasters to the people. As a result, people lost freedom of faith."

After the PRC was founded, people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang gained the freedom of religious belief, the white paper said, stressing respect for and protection of freedom of religious belief is a long-term basic national policy of the Chinese government.

"No citizen suffers discrimination or unfair treatment for believing in, or not believing in, any religion," it said.

At present, the major religions in Xinjiang are Islam, Buddhism, Protestantism, Catholicism and Taoism, according to the white paper.

The white paper published by the State Council Information Office, said China's religious undertakings are run by its own religious groups, personnel or citizens, and that the country's religious affairs or organizations are "not subject to any foreign domination."

Foreigners must abide by Chinese laws and regulations when participating in religious activities within Chinese territory and must not interfere in China's religious affairs, it read.

"As a provincial-level administrative region of China, Xinjiang sticks to the principle of independence and self-management in terms of its religious affairs," the paper reads.

It went on to say that the Chinese government resolutely opposes the politicization of religious matters and any other country's interference in China's internal affairs in the name of religion.

"China ... will never allow any foreign organization or individual to interfere with China' s religious affairs," the paper reads.

Ethnic groups in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region have never been exposed to discrimination in employment and education, in fact, they have enjoyed preferential treatment, a Uygur official said.

China has always held that there should be no discrimination of any kind directed toward an ethnic group, said Shewket Imin, an official with the Xinjiang regional committee of the Communist Party of China.

He made the remarks while answering reporters' questions at a press conference on Thursday when the State Council Information Office issued a white paper titled "Freedom of Religious Belief in Xinjiang."

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