China 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.
The white paper noted that the law protects all normal religious activities that believers conduct at venues for religious activities or in their own homes in accordance with customary religious practices, including fasting, praying, preaching, attending Mass and being baptized, it said.
These activities are "exclusive affairs of religious groups and the believers themselves," the government document said, adding no organization or individual may interfere.
To ensure successful pilgrimages for believers in Islam, Xinjiang adopts a policy of organized and planned pilgrimages. Since 1996, the Xinjiang Government has arranged charter flights every year to take believers in Islam to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, according to the white paper.
Citizens' religious feelings and needs are fully respected, it said, citing the prompt setting up of temporary sites to ensure normal religious life for religious believers after a 6.5-magnitude earthquake hit Hotan Prefecture during Ramadan last July.
Religious and cultural heritages are also effectively preserved, the white paper said.
A total of 109 religious and cultural sites in Xinjiang have been placed under the protection of the autonomous region and the state.
Moreover, religious personages' right to participate in the deliberation and administration of state affairs is protected.
Among China's legislators and political advisors at all levels, 1,436 are religious believers from Xinjiang, according to the white paper.
(Xinhua News Agency June 2, 2016)