WASHINGTON (Reuters) - China's respect for religious freedom deteriorated last year as it interfered with Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in ways that may have contributed to a dozen Tibetan self-immolations, the United States said on Monday.
In its annual International Religious Freedom Report for 2011, the State Department said it discerned a rise in anti-Semitism around the world as well as the increased use of anti-blasphemy laws to restrict the rights of religious minorities.
It said conditions worsened in countries such as Iran, where the report cited state "imprisonment, harassment, intimidation and discrimination based on religious beliefs," as well as Pakistan, where "abuses continued under the blasphemy law."
The State Department also cited "a marked deterioration" in official respect for and protection of religious freedom in China, including greater restrictions on religious practice especially in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and nunneries.
"Official interference in the practice of these religious traditions exacerbated grievances and contributed to at least 12 self-immolations by Tibetans in 2011," the report said.
In Iran, with which the United States has had acrimonious relations since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, religious freedom "deteriorated further from an already egregious situation," the State Department said.
It cited the restoration of 20-year sentences for seven Bahais charged with spying for and collaborating with Israel as well as the imprisonment of Yousof Nadarkhani, a Christian pastor sentenced to death for apostasy.
(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)