Clinton Urged to Discuss China’s Harassment of Christians and Activists
3/7/09 China (BosNewsLife) Sixteen members of the United States Congress have urged U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to discuss human rights with her Chinese counterpart, amid fresh reports that Chinese house church Christians and pro-democracy activists were harassed during her recent visit to China.
The bipartisan letter, seen by BosNewsLife Saturday, March 7, came as Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi prepared to visit the U.S. Monday, March 9.
Clinton has been criticized by rights groups for failing to meet dissidents and for publicly saying that American concerns over alleged human rights abuses in China must not “interfere” with cooperation on the economic crisis, global warming and security threats.
While Congress members welcomed Clinton’s concerns over such themes they stressed in their letter that, “These issues cannot and should not be separated from concerns about human rights and the rule of law.”
“As long as practices of forced abortions, imprisonment of human rights lawyers, and persecution of unregistered churches continue, the people of China will be neither free nor safe,” the Congress members added.
Their appeal came amid eyewitness accounts that house church Christians and pro-democracy activists were “kept away” from Clinton when she visited a state-controlled church in Haidian district of Beijing at the end of her brief visit to China, last month.
“Many Christians” and pro-democracy activists were placed under strict surveillance and were told not to go out at will before Clinton arrived in Beijing, said Yu Jie, a Christian author from Beijing.
They were also, “harassed to various extents just because Hillary [Cinton] went to a Sunday service in a government-sanctioned church,” added Yu, who was himself apparanely harassed by police.”I was one of the victims,” he told Radio Free Asia. “In the three days before this, these plain-clothed agents from Beijing Domestic
Security Protection Squad not only stayed downstairs from my house, they also came to talk to me and required me to report to them if I wanted to go out in the next few days.”
A former house church pastor, Bob Fu, added that, “While Secretary Clinton was visiting in China, Christians were sitting in their cold prison cells and working in labor camps around the clock.” Fu, who now leads U.S. based advocacy group China Aid Association, said they expected her to say, “Brothers and sisters, we are with you
while you are suffering.”
Radio Free Asia also reported police scuffles with over 20 petitioners holding banners near the U.S. Embassy, while shouting slogans of welcoming Clinton. There has been a growing crackdown on unregistered house churches and rights activists, amid concerns among Chinese officials over the spread of Christianity in the Communist-run nation, according to several analysts and advocacy groups.
Chinese officials privately estimate there are about 130 million Christians in China, many of whom belong to the house churches. The number of Christians in China far exceeds ruling Communist Party members, estimated at 74 million. Chinese officials have denied reports of human rights abuses, saying they only uphold the laws of the land.
Yet, U.S. Congress members wrote Clinton she should urge her Chinese counterpart to respect freedom of religion. “The State Department Human Rights Report which was released on February 25th clearly describes a deterioration of human rights conditions in China during 2008. Please make certain that your conversations with the Chinese government are consistent with the findings of this report.”
They said it is “ironic that the Chinese government, while claiming to pursue a harmonious society, simultaneously allows policies which bring harassment on those seeking to follow the law and serve in humanitarian projects. Yet, this is the case for house church Christians and many other religious groups throughout China. They first find their religious freedom denied, then their right to privacy, right to freedom of speech, and right to freedom of association.”
The letter was signed by Joseph R. Pitts (PA, 16th), Tim Ryan (OH, 17th), Trent Franks (AZ, 2nd), Bob Inglis (SC, 4th), Frank Wolf (VA, 10th), Mike Rogers (AL, 3rd), Mike Pence (IN, 6th), Dan Burton (IN, 5th), Michele Bachmann (MN, 6th), Scott Garrett (NJ, 5th), Michael Michaud (ME, 2nd), Chris Smith (NJ, 4th), Randy Neugebauer (TX, 19th), Thaddeus McCotter (MI, 11th), Donald Manzullo (IL, 16th) and John Boozman (AR, 3rd).