BEIJING, March 12 (Xinhua) -- Chinese political advisors from Tibet and Xinjiang said Friday that cultural and religious freedom is fully respected and protected according to law in the two ethnic regions, fighting back against an annual U.S. human rights report.
"The report is utterly groundless. I strongly advise those who wrote the report visit Tibet personally before drawing a conclusion," said Lhagba Puncog, secretary-general of the Beijing-based China Tibetology Research Center.
As a scholar from the Tibetan ethnic group, Lhagba Puncog goes back to Tibet for research for two months every year.
"I witness the increasing improvement in the living standards of Tibetan people, and they fully enjoy freedom of religious beliefs," he told Xinhua on the sidelines of the annual session of the country's top political advisory body, or the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee.
Local government statistics showed that Tibet's gross domestic product (GDP) reached 43.7 billion yuan in 2009, up 170 percent from that in 2000 and posting an annual growth of 12.3 percent over the past nine years.
Currently, Tibet has more than 1,700 religious venues and 46,000 monks and nuns, whose religious beliefs are well protected by law.
Berkri Mamut, a CPPCC member and director of Shanshan County Islamic Association in Xinjiang, Muslims can practice their religion normally.
"They can freely attend religious service in mosques or practice fasting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan," he said.
"Every year, the government will help make arrangements for about 12,000 Muslims nationwide who go to the holy city Mecca for hajj, of which almost 5,000 are form Xinjiang," he said.
"It is ridiculous to say there is 'cultural and religious repression' in Xinjiang," he added.
Yiliduosi Aihetamofu, a CPPCC member and a physician of Tatar ethnic group from the No. 1 Hospital affiliated to the Xinjiang Medical University, said what he has seen in Xinjiang is the fast economic development and improvement of people's lives.
"We Tatar people has a population of less than 5,000, but our cultural traditions have been preserved well," he said.