Taiwan can serve as an example of religious freedom for China, US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback said in Taipei yesterday at the first regional religious freedom forum.
There is concern over crackdowns on religious freedom by Beijing, including its detention of more than 1 million Muslims, arrests of church leaders, interference with Tibetan Buddhist practices and reported torture of Falun Gong practitioners, Brownback said in a speech at the opening ceremony of the Regional Religious Freedom Forum with the theme “A Civil Society Dialogue on Securing Religious Freedom in the Indo-Pacific Region.”
With this year marking the 60th anniversary of the Dalai Lama’s exile from Tibet, Beijing should resume formal dialogue with him or his representatives immediately, Brownback said.
Photo: RITCHIE B. TONGO / EPA-EFE
The US supports the Dalai Lama’s “middle way” approach and Tibet’s meaningful autonomy, he said.
Governments and societies should collaborate to advance religious freedom, he said, adding that societies that allow religious minorities to fully participate can improve “peace, security and prosperity, like it has here in Taiwan.”
Asked at a news conference after the opening ceremony about how the US and Taiwan — the forum’s organizers — would encourage religious freedom in China, Brownback said that “holding up the example of Taiwan” would be one of the key ways to do so.
Taiwan’s religiously diverse society shows that beliefs are “not a threat to the government,” but rather “a building block for civil society,” he said, adding: “I don’t understand why in China they think it’s a threat.”
Asked how the the conference would help advance religious freedom, he said it is the first step to building an alliance of the government and individuals to oppose religious persecution.
Crackdowns on religious freedom by China are not only against the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but also against its own constitution, he said.
While China has denied persecuting people for their religion, Brownback said Chinese authorities should answer charges and help locate missing Muslims reportedly detained in camps in Xinjiang.
“I have got lists of hundreds of names of individuals. Where are they? What is happening to them? Why can’t their families find them?” he said.
Asked to comment on whether the forum would affect the US’ relationships with Taiwan and China, he said: “I don’t know if it does or does not.”
He is in Taiwan because the nation is a good partner that believes in the same values as the US, he said, adding that Taiwan has worked closely with the US and been excellent on human rights and religious freedom.
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