Washington: China has criticised the US government`s report on international religious freedom, calling it "a notorious practice of blatantly interfering in the internal affairs of other countries".
The US government Monday released the 2011 Report on International Religious Freedom, "continuing a notorious practice of blatantly interfering in the internal affairs of other countries, including China, in the name of religion", said a commentary in Xinhua news agency.
"Contrary to the US report`s claims that `increased restrictions on religious freedom` led to at least 12 self-immolations by Tibetans in 2011, these incidents were in fact politically-motivated, as they were part of the Dalai Lama clique`s scheme to internationalize the Tibet issue," it added.
The report designated eight countries - Myanmar, China, North Korea, Eritrea, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan - as countries of particular concern for alleged violations of religious freedom.
Without providing factual proof, it alleged that the situation of religious freedom "deteriorated" in 2011 in countries, including China, Eritrea, Iran and Pakistan, the commentary said.
Xinhua said that the annual report is "nothing but a political tool used by the US government to exert pressure on other countries, mostly deemed as its rivals".
"The US practice of releasing such a report, which is full of prejudice, arrogance and ignorance, is unimaginative and even counterproductive.
"The US action will only backfire by creating more suspicion and distrust rather than fostering mutual understanding and improving relations with other countries. In fact, the report has been repeatedly rejected and condemned by countries that Washington has accused year after year," it added.
It described China as as a multi-religious country where religious freedom is fully protected under the Constitution and state laws.
The commentary stressed that for the past decades, "China has already made great strides in consolidating the rule of law to ensure the protection of religious freedom so that all practitioners of lawful religions can practice their faith freely."
"In today`s China, no one will be persecuted just because he or she is affiliated with any of the lawful religions".
It pointed out that "only a few members from banned cults and illegal extremist religious organisations, which engage in illegal or splittist activities under the guise of seeking religious freedom, have been punished in China strictly according to the laws".
Xinhua said that China has "every right to maintain its social stability and territorial integrity by cracking down on religious extremism, splittism and terrorism which advocate violence in the name of seeking religious freedom and human rights".