China is chief among countries that fail to recognize the crucial nature of religious freedom, said Chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, or USCIRF, Dr. Tenzin Dorjee:
“In China you know they put all the restrictions you can ever imagine on all religious minorities ... whether these are Muslims from Xinjiang – Uighurs -- or the Tibetan Buddhists in Tibet or the Christians or the Falun Gong and others.”
USCIRF monitors religious freedom abroad and makes policy recommendations to the President of the United States.
As part of its Commission's Religious Prisoners of Conscience Project, which highlights individuals imprisoned for exercising their freedom of religion or belief, each of the ten Commissioners advocates for specific individuals targeted for their faith. Both of Dr. Dorjee’s Prisoners of Conscience are victims of China’s draconian policies.
Gulmira Imin, a Uighur Muslim and former web administrator for the Uighur-language website Salkin, was accused by the Chinese Government of organizing protests and leaking state secrets by phone to her husband in Norway. On April 1, 2010, she was sentenced to life in prison.
Dr. Dorjee also sponsors the 11th Panchen Lama. After the tenth Panchen Lama died under mysterious circumstances in China, the Dalai Lama in 1995 recognized then 6-year-old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as the eleventh Panchen Lama. Three days later, the boy and his family were abducted, said Dr. Dorjee:
“Chinese knew that Dalai Lama is in advanced age. When he passes away usually the Panchen Lama would be much older and he would play a key role in finding and recognizing him. And so they abducted the real Panchen Lama and family and then they appointed their own candidate called Gyaincain Norbu and groomed him as the real Panchen Lama and showcase across the world.”
Dr. Dorjee said that the Chinese government responds with shallow platitudes to the Commission’s inquiries regarding Gedhun Choekyi Nyima.
“China has declared war on faith,” said U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback. “And to this we say to China: Do not be mistaken, you will not win your war on faith. This will have consequences on your standing at home and around the world.”