By LEAH MARIEANN KLETT
China is one of the worst persecutors of Christians, The United States Commission on Religious Freedom has revealed in its annual report highlighting about 30 countries where religious freedom rights are being egregiously violated.
Released on April 29, the 2019 report classifies China as a “Tier 1” CPC – a country that has taken extreme measures to regulate and oppress religious freedoms. The report specifically mentioned the persecution of Early Rain Covenant Church, which was closed down by the government in December. Early Rain’s senior pastor, Wang Yi, remains behind bars after speaking out against President Xi Jinping’s brutal regime.
“The government also raided or closed down hundreds of Protestant house churches, including Zion Church, Rongguili Church, and Early Rain Covenant Church,” the report explained.
The report highlighted the contradictory nature of the country’s policy towards those belonging to various faiths despite promising religious freedom.
“Article 36 of China’s constitution grants citizens ‘freedom of religious belief’ and directs the government to protect ‘normal religious activities,'” the report noted, before pointing out that this freedom “is limited by the requirement that religious activities cannot ‘disrupt public order, impair the health of citizens or interfere with the educational system.'”
“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.
Even though the Chinese government and the Vatican came to an agreement last year, “repression of the underground Catholic Church increased during the latter half of the year” and also continued into 2019.
The report called for greater action, both from the United States and the international community, in pursuing greater protections for people of faith.
It also 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.
“In addition to insights on religious freedom conditions in these 28 countries, the Annual Report provides actionable policy recommendations for Congress and the Administration to help improve conditions abroad where people are being persecuted for their religion or belief,” said USCIRF Chair Tenzin Dorjee. “Our goal is not only to call out the offenders, but to provide concrete actions for the U.S. government to take in working with these countries to get off our lists.”