China accuses US of prejudice on religious issues

Beijing rejected Thursday accusations from the United States that it was curbing religious freedoms in its Tibetan regions and urged Washington to cast off its "prejudiced" views of China.

The US State Department said Monday that official "interference" in traditional Buddhist practices in China's Tibetan-inhabited areas had "contributed to at least 12 self-immolations by Tibetans in 2011".

"In the Tibetan Autonomous Region and other Tibetan areas, this included increased restrictions on religious practice, especially in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and nunneries," it said.

China's foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei refuted the US findings and urged Washington to do more to promote friendly ties between the two nations.

"China's government guarantees freedom of religious belief for all people in accordance with law," Hong said in a statement.

"The United States should discard its prejudiced views, respect the facts, view China's ... religious freedom situation in an objective and impartial way and stop using religion to interfere in China's internal affairs."

More than 40 people have set themselves on fire in Tibetan-inhabited areas of China since the start of March 2011 in protest at what they say is religious and cultural repression by the Chinese authorities.

Beijing blames Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama for inciting the self-immolations in a bid to split Tibet from the rest of the nation, and insists Tibetans now have better lives due to Chinese investment.

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