WASHINGTON, D.C. — China has been singled out by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) for its attacks on religion and human rights in its newly released annual report.
In its 20th annual report, released on Monday, the Commission offered a bleak picture of oppressed conditions for practicing faith for believers of all stripes in the world’s most populous country.
“As a Tibetan, you may be forced to study Buddhism in a language that is not Tibetan, your native tongue, or detained for possessing a photo of your spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. As a Christian, your Bible may have been rewritten by the Chinese government, your church shuttered or demolished, and your pastor imprisoned,” it stated.
“As a Muslim — particularly an ethnic Uighur Muslim — you may be forcibly sent to a concentration camp where you are held against your will and subjected to unspeakable acts of abuse and alleged torture, all while authorities pressure you to abandon your faith,” the report continued.
Clocking in at more than 200 pages, the report called for greater action, both from the United States and the international community, in pursuing greater protections for people of faith.
The report calls on the U.S. State Department to redesignate the following 10 countries as “countries of particular concern,” (CPCs): Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan — and also adds six other countries to receive the same designation: the Central African Republic, Nigeria, Russia, Syria, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.
While the State Department releases its own annual religious freedom report that documents concerns in every country around the globe, the USCIRF report zeroes in on the top 30 countries of most significant concern.
Among the broader recommendations made in the report is a call for a special adviser on International Religious Freedom to the U.S. president to be named within the National Security Council, for Congress to hold oversight hearings on the implementation of International Religious Freedom Act, and to increase targeted sanctions against “specific officials, agencies, and military units for severe religious freedom violations.”
In regards to China, the report said that the U.S., along with other countries, should sanction Chinese agencies for their violations of religious freedom, particularly against Muslims.
The report notes the Vatican deal with China, which it labels as “controversial,” where the Vatican grants Chinese authority a measure of control in the appointment process of Chinese Catholic bishops.
In a section detailing the “individual views of Commissioner Johnnie Moore,” he labels the deal as “one of the most alarming incidents as it relates to religious freedom in the entire year.”
“Being that the Vatican is both a Church and a State, it is my opinion that the Vatican now bears a significant moral and legal responsibility to help solve the problem which it helped create — albeit inadvertently — by providing China license to viciously crack down on Christian communities,” he continued.
The report, which by law is required to be submitted by May 1 of each year, comes after the recent 20th anniversary of the International Religious Freedom Act, which its authors says regrettably spans “a generation of cruel and unrelenting treatment [of individuals] because of their beliefs.”
“Despite two decades of tireless work to bring an end to religious-based discrimination, violence, and persecution, innumerable believers and nonbelievers across the globe continued in 2018 to experience manifold suffering due to their beliefs,” it continued.
The report’s release comes just days after an Easter Sunday bombing in Sri Lanka that killed more than 250 people, many of whom were attending Mass, and just weeks after a terrorist attacked two mosques in New Zealand during Friday prayer service, leaving 50 dead.
Last week the papal charity Aid to the Church in Need said 2019 was “already one of the bloodiest (years) for Christians.”
“Across the globe, the collective voices of those fighting for freedom of religion or belief must consistently sound the alarm against state and nonstate actors who perpetrate and tolerate such abuses,” the USCIRF report concludes. “These violators must be held accountable. The impunity must end now.”
The USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission, and its recommendations are transmitted to the President, the Secretary of State, and U.S. Congress.