Photo: ChinaAid Founder Bob Fu testifies in congressional hearing (ChinaAid)
(Washington, DC—May 2, 2023) USCIRF released its 2023 Annual Report detailing concerns about religious freedom worldwide. They recommended China and eleven other countries as serious violators of religious freedom.
“Country of particular concern”
In 1998, Congress enacted International Religious Freedom Act which requires the President to review religious freedom in every country. Those who pose grave threats to religious freedom are designated as a “country of particular concern” (CPC). Several factors are key for this label, including torture, forced disappearance, and prolonged arbitrary detention.
Designations in 2022
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) makes recommendations regarding CPCs and other bad actors. Last November, the US State Department highlighted twelve countries as CPCs due to the Commission: Burma, China, Cuba, Eritrea, Iran, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan.
China: country of particular concern
Since 1998, China has been designated as a CPC. Bob Fu, the Founder and President of ChinaAid, reflected on the recent USCIRF report. “China is once again a country of particular concern,” he stated. “For the last 24 designations, religious freedom in China continued to disappear year by year.”
House Church Christians
ChinaAid released its annual report earlier this year covering religious persecution against Chinese Christians in 2022. USCIRF mentioned several ChinaAid cases, like Elder Zhang Chunlei from Ren’ai Reformed Church and An Yankui of Zion Reformed. Elder Zhang was charged with “inciting subversion of state power” after signing a declaration of faith with over 400 house church leaders and pastors. Authorities arrested An Yankui after he traveled to a gospel conference out of the country.
Uyghurs, Tibetans, and Falun Gong practitioners
The ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) not only persecutes Christians; many other religious groups face harsh persecution, even genocide, at the hands of the Chinese government. Millions of Uyghurs are kept in state-monitored concentration camps and used for forced labor. Tibetans are banned from visiting their religious sites, and 172 Falun Gong practitioners died because of harsh CCP policies.
Campaign against faith
“As we saw in 2022,” Fu recalled, “the CCP’s campaign against faith aspires to eradicate religious freedom for house church Christians, underground Catholics, Uyghur Muslims, Falun Gong practitioners, Tibetans, and other unregistered religious groups. These persecuted faithful need the help of international governments.”
Besides the designation of CPC, USCIRF made several recommendations for the U.S. government to address these atrocities. They cited using sanctions against relevant officials and supporting legislation to “counter malign influence in the United States, particularly its lobbying efforts[.]” Fu agreed with the Commission’s response: “The US government should be discussing specific violations of religious freedom in all communication with their counterparts.”