New State Department Report Highlights Persecution in China

06/10/2020 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – The U.S. Department of State published its 2019 Report on International Religious Freedom today. This report, published annually to Congress, discusses the status of religious freedom in every country over the course of the previous year. For each country, the report looks at the relevant state’s government and its policies regarding religious practice and belief, the country’s religious demography, the social status of the various religious beliefs and practices, and any associated activity by the United States government to promote religious freedom in the area.[1]

The government of the People’s Republic of China has long been notorious for its suppression of religious freedom.[2] Every year since 1998, the State Department details the religious liberty concerns created by the Chinese government in its Report on International Religious Freedom.

The 2019 report’s section on religious persecution in China is considerably longer, more involved, and more detailed than in previous years. This is, no doubt, due to greater knowledge regarding the Chinese government’s implementation of its five-year plan to “Sinicize” the state-sanctioned religions.

In the 2019 report, the State Department records the discoveries of the last year regarding the detainment, “re-education,” abuse, and torture of more than one million Uyghurs, ethnic Kazaks, Hui, Uyghur Christians, and members of Falun Gong. Like the 2018 Report, the 2019 Report appends sections on Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau and devotes an entire section to covering the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in northwestern China.[3]

Yet, unlike in 2018, the reports spends a majority of the section devoted to China as a whole discussing developments regarding the internment camps in Xinjiang and detailing the abuses of the Uyghurs and other religious minorities there. The 2019 report includes numerous specific incidents, reporting numerous specific actions taken by the Chinese government against religious individuals and communities.[4] The report draws heavily from articles published in Bitter Winter, an online magazine responsible for significant amounts of investigative journalism of anti-religious activity in China,[5] as well as several other news sources.

The 2019 report also dedicates a section exclusively dealing with religious freedom in Hong Kong over the past year.[6] It includes limited coverage of the pro-democracy protests, insofar as the protests have implicated religious organizations since the protests began last June. The section discusses some anti-religious actions taken by police in quelling the protests, including the defacing of a mosque and the pepper-spraying of protestors supporting the victims of religious persecution in Xinjiang.

Also, the report describes incidents wherein Christian protestors received anonymous messages threatening physical violence or had their personal information posted publicly online. However, the report notes that it is often difficult to separate whether a specific incident is based on the victim’s religious identity or because of his political loyalty to a democratic Hong Kong.


[1]For more details on the methodology and writing of the report, see https://www.state.gov/reports/2019-report-on-international-religious-freedom/

 

[2] The restrictions placed by the Chinese government on religious belief and practice have annually earned the People’s Republic of China a USCIRF recommendation for designation as a “Country of Particular Concern” since the country was first added to the list in 1999. https://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/China_0.pdf. Likewise, Open Doors recently included China on its World Watch List for religious persecution. https://www.opendoorsusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/2020_World_Watch_List.pdf.

 

[3]2019 Report on International Religious Freedom: China – Xinjiang, https://www.state.gov/reports/2019-report-on-international-religious-freedom/china/xinjiang/.

 

[4]2019 Report on International Religious Freedom: China, https://www.state.gov/reports/2019-report-on-international-religious-freedom/china/

 

[5]Bitter Winter, https://bitterwinter.org/.

 

[6]2019 Report on International Religious Freedom: China – Hong Kong,  https://www.state.gov/reports/2019-report-on-international-religious-freedom/china/hong-kong/

 

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