05/28/2021 China (International Christian Concern) – Two high-level institutions in the US government recently highlighted certain religious freedom issues in China and called for an end to the government-led persecution there. The Department of State’s Office of International Religious Freedom and the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)—both created by the IRF Act of 1998—were united in their criticism of the Chinese government’s campaign against religion.
As it has since its first year of operation in 1999, State designated China as a Country of Particular Concern for “having engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom.” Along with the designation comes certain sanctions, which were upheld in the most recent designation.
Speaking at the annual report launch earlier this month, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken criticized China for the way it “criminalizes religious expression and continues to commit crimes against humanity and genocide against Muslim Uyghurs and members of other religious and ethnic minority groups,” in a statement that reiterated the Trump administration’s condemnation of China’s campaign against the Uyghurs as a genocide.
China 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 Chinese Communist Party values. The report also included a list of Christian persecution incidents from the previous year.
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