Religious Freedom on the Agenda as Blinken Embarks on First Trip Abroad

03/15/2021 United States (International Christian Concern) – Landing in Japan this morning, Secretary of State Antony Blinken kicked off the first in a series of meetings with key U.S. allies in Asia. He is accompanied by the Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. Blinken’s four days in Japan and South Korea are widely seen as an attempt to push back against China’s regional belligerence by highlighting the United States’ strong partnerships in the region.

Blinken’s tour will wrap up in Alaska, where he and President Biden’s national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, will meet with two senior Chinese diplomats. The visit to Japan and South Korea is Blinken’s first foreign trip since assuming his current position in January and the meeting in Alaska will be the administration’s first with China.

The timing of the meeting with China right on the heels of Blinken’s meetings with Japan and South Korea is no accident. As Blinken wrote in a Washington Post op-ed coauthored with Austin, the timing is intended to send a message to China that the United States and its allies in the region will be unified in pushing back against China’s aggression, both internationally and against its own people.

“It is strongly in our interests for the Indo-Pacific region to be free and open, anchored by respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law,” Blinken and Austin write in the Washington Post piece. “Together we will hold China accountable when it abuses human rights in Xinjiang and Tibet, systematically erodes autonomy in Hong Kong, [or] undercuts democracy in Taiwan.”

The meetings in Japan and South Korea follow meetings last week by the “Quad,” a semi-formal coalition between the United States, Japan, India, and Australia. The coalition has gathered off and on since 2007, serving as a democratic counterweight to China’s authoritarianism and regional assertiveness.

China has come under particular fire in recent years for its treatment of religious minorities. Religion is seen as the enemy of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which demands ultimate allegiance from all Chinese citizens. Believers practicing within state-approved religious organizations such as the Three Self Church and the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association are made to serve the CCP, while believers outside these state-approved organizations are heavily surveilled and often persecuted.

That religious freedom in China is on the agenda of Blinken’s Asia tour is heartening. Whether Uyghur Muslims in China’s eastern Xinjian region or housechurch Christians throughout the country, China’s people deserve the support of the international community as they fight for the right to follow their consciences rather than the dictates of the CCP.

For interviews, please contact Alison Garcia: press@persecution.org

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