12 April 2007
CHINA: CHINA'S CATHOLICS, THE HOLY SEE AND RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
The relationship between China's government and the Holy See has greatly improved, Forum 18 News Service notes. But contentious issues - such as government control of the selection of "patriotic" Chinese bishops and local officials cracking down on the "underground" church - remain. Some ofthis stems from conflicts between "patriotic" and "underground" Catholics. The current diplomatic situation may also reflect lack of consensus in the Chinese government on the desirability of a normalised relationship with the Vatican. The regular interactions between the Vatican and China can have a positive impact on Chinese political leaders' perceptions. Also, significant progress has already been made in uniting the Catholic Church in China. But, even if normal diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the Chinese government resume, there may not be any significant short to medium term practical religious freedom improvements. This is because, forCatholics and other religious believers, the major challenge to their religious freedom is the state's wish to control China's religious communities.
10 April 2007
UZBEKISTAN: RUSSIAN RELIGIOUS NEWS WEBSITE BLOCKED
One of the more prominent Russian-language religious news websites,Portal-credo.ru, is blocked in Uzbekistan, Forum 18 News Service has found. Tests in the Uzbek capital Tashkent showed that the religious news website was inaccessible. Blocking is done at the instigation of the National Security Service (NSS) secret police. Internet service providers (ISPs) inUzbekistan blame the blocking of sites on Uznet, owned by the state provider Uzbektelecom and through which all ISPs have to connect to the internet. Uznet insists that sites are already blocked by the NSS. "We don't block websites - this is done by the NSS secret police. The NSS open the connections for us - they have all the equipment there," an Uznet employee told Forum 18. Uzbekistan has long barred access to more websites than any other Central Asian country, including websites such as Centrasia.ru, Ferghana.ru and Uznews.net. All these websites carry some coverage of religious affairs.