International Religious Freedom CommissionIn its third Annual Report, released Monday, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said that Chinese authorities continue to violate the religious freedom of the Tibetan people.

The mandate of the Commission is to provide policy recommendations to the President, Secretary of State and Congress on the facts and circumstances of religious freedom violations overseas.

In its country report on China, the Commission said despite the Chinese government’s signature on and/or ratification of several international human rights treaties and its stated adherence to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it has continued to commit severe violations of freedom of religion and belief and discriminate against individuals on the basis of their religion or belief.

The Commission pointed out the situation of Tibetan Buddhists as one of the numerous examples of China’s egregious violations of the rights of religious communities.

In its recommendations from the 2002 report, the Commission said the U.S. Congress should extend an invitation to the Dalai Lama to address a Joint Meeting of Congress. It also recommended that the U.S. government should endeavor to establish an official U.S. government presence in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa. It further said the United States should urge the Chinese government to provide access to religious persons imprisoned, detained or under house arrest in Tibet.

The Commission was legislated by Congress through the IRFA (Public Law105-292) to promote religious freedom as a U.S. foreign policy goal and to combat religious persecution in other countries. Congress also requires it to issue an annual report each May 1. The Commission expires in May 2003.

According to the Commission, its report differs from the State Department’s annual report. While the State Department’s report is a country-by-country analysis of religious freedom, the Commission report covers fewer countries, but makes policy recommendations to the executive and legislative branches of government. The Commission report also critiques the work of the State Department in promoting international religious freedom.