China Leveraging the International System to Further Religious Persecution
05/05/2021 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – As China assumes the presidency of the UN Security Council for the month of May, human rights activists around the world are raising concerns about China’s abuse of the international system to further its persecution of religious minorities. The presidency rotates among the fifteen member states, with China last holding the position in March 2020.
China’s ambassador the UN, Zhang Jun, told the press that his first priority this month is to uphold multilateralism and strengthen the UN’s position on the world stage. China presents itself at the UN as a champion of the developing world, though it has a long history of exploitive development practices and has consistently used infrastructure projects to pressure other countries into condoning its persecution of religious minorities.
China has a long history of repressing religious expression, both inside and outside its borders. Over the last several decades it has forced abortions on its citizens, sterilized women without their consent, and murdered religious minorities to sell their organs on the black market. Christian home churches are an attempt to escape government scrutiny, but even they are often raided and their members arrested on charges of working against the interests of the state.
China’s largest-scale persecution campaign is against its Uyghur Muslim population, which it accuses of extremism. Analysts estimate that between one and three million Uyghurs have been interred in massive indoctrination camps in the last decade. Incidents of torture are common in these camps, though China has variously denied their existence and claimed that they are benevolent vocational centers.
The US Departments of State and Treasury imposed numerous sanctions on Chinese persons earlier this year for their involvement in this persecution campaign. The last two administrations have agreed that the campaign against Uyghurs amounts to a genocide.
China also aggressively persecutes Christians who choose to worship in institutions outside of the state-run Three-Self church and Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association. House churches are regularly raided, church leaders imprisoned, and laypeople intimidated for practicing their faith outside the narrow confines established by the government.
A recent Freedom House report ranked China as one of the least free countries in the world, including for its lack of religious freedom. A 2017 report by Freedom House found that “at least 100 million believers belong to groups facing high or very high levels of religious persecution, namely Protestant Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, Uighur Muslims, and Falun Gong practitioners.” Research from other groups corroborate this finding.
ICC published an in-depth report in the summer of 2020 examining the legal mechanisms China uses to suppress religion. Topics covered in the report included an array of administrative decrees used to suppress religious expression, and the government’s ongoing campaign to “Sinicize” religion, or change religious identity into something more consistent with CCP values. The report also included a list of Christian persecution incidents from the previous year.
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