Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently discussed the importance the U.S. attaches to promoting religious freedom around the world: “Our mission set is ... to give every human being that chance to worship, to practice their faith, exercise their conscience in the way that they want to.”
Unfortunately, in the People’s Republic of China, the Communist Party leadership has only increased its persecution of those who attempt to practice their faith. According to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom - an independent, bi-partisan federal body tasked with monitoring violations of religious freedom abroad - in 2019, “religious freedom conditions in China continued to deteriorate.”
China’s minority Muslim community continues to be one of the most persecuted religious minority groups in the country. The U.S. government estimates that since 2017, authorities have detained over one million ethnic Uighurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and other Muslims in internment camps in Xinjiang. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, or USCIRF, reports that individuals have been sent to the camps for wearing long beards, refusing alcohol, or other behaviors deemed “extremist” by Chinese Communist authorities. Former detainees report that they suffered torture, rape, sterilization, and other abuses.
In Tibet, the Chinese government continues to pursue a policy of forced assimilation and suppression of Tibetan Buddhism. Monks and nuns who refused to renounce the Dalai Lama have been expelled from their monasteries, imprisoned, and tortured, according to USCIRF.
Chinese government authorities also raided or closed down hundreds of Protestant house churches in 2019, including Rock Church in Henan Province and Shouwang Church in Beijing. The government released some members of the Early Rain Covenant Church who had been held since December 2018, but in December 2019 a court charged Pastor Wang Yi with “subversion of state power” and sentenced him to nine years in prison. Local authorities continued to harass and detain Catholic bishops, including Guo Xijin and Cui Tai, who refused to join the state-affiliated Catholic association. Several local governments offered cash rewards for individuals who informed on underground churches.
Also, in 2019, thousands of Falun Gong practitioners were arrested for practicing the movement’s meditation exercises or distributing literature about their beliefs, according to reports.
The U.S. government has repeatedly called upon the People’s Republic of China to stop punishing its citizens for peacefully observing their faith, and to respect the rights of its citizens to practice their religion freely.