China angrily denounces Games "Bible ban" report
BEIJING (Reuters) - China reacted angrily on Thursday to reports in the European press that the government would ban Bibles during next year's Beijing Olympics, saying it could not possibly be true.
The reports, one of which appeared in Italian sports newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport, were picked up by the Catholic News Agency and spread to U.S. media sites.
"The facts show that this news is a total rumour," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told a news conference. "The Chinese government has not come up with any such rule.
The 2008 Olympics has already become a focus for groups wishing to put pressure on China on everything from Tibet to Beijing's support of Myanmar's junta, and this seems set to continue at the opening ceremony gets nearer.
Organisers have already pledged religious services will be offered during the Games.
Liu said foreigners were allowed to bring in religious objects or materials for personal use, and that there would be no change to this during the Olympics.
"We are suspicious of the motivations for why these people would spread such rumours. They should be responsible, and not do things that are not beneficial for them and harm mutual understanding between China and the world," he added.
Though the Chinese government keeps a close grip on religious activity, the country has large Christian, Muslim and Buddhist communities who are allowed to worship at state recognised churches, mosques and temples.
But rights groups regularly criticise China for restricting the right to worship and arresting those who try to follow their faith outside of state appointed bodies.
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