Persecution against believers in China was front and center as the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom released its 20th annual report Monday morning.
With photographs on the cover showing demonstrations against China’s imprisonment of thousands of Uighur Muslims, the bipartisan and independent commission mandated by Congress unveiled its 226-page report highlighting about 30 countries where religious freedom rights are being egregiously violated.
As is the case in past years, the report divides countries into different tiers, with “Tier 1” recommendations representing countries that the Commission believes should be labeled by the U.S. State Department as “countries of particular concern” (CPC). The CPC label carries with it the possibility that the countries could face sanctions or other negative consequences.
“Tier 2” identifies countries where religious freedom violations have happened but have not risen to the severity needed to be considered Tier 1.
USCIRF recommends that 16 countries be labeled as CPCs by the State Department, 10 of which were designated or redesignated as CPCs by the State Department last November.
The Tier 1 countries are: Burma, Central African Republic, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.
“As has been said several times this morning, we have a Tier 1 and Tier 2 of the countries we look at,” USCIRF Commissioner and longtime social conservative activist Gary Bauer said during a rollout event on Capitol Hill attended by a bipartisan group of lawmakers.
“If we were going to rank the Tier 1 countries, China would be in a category all by itself [with] the level of persecution. They are an equal opportunity persecutor.”
With the U.S. and China on the cusp of a major trade deal, USCIRF’s report serves as one last call for U.S. officials to “integrate religious freedom and related human rights diplomacy” into the ongoing trade negotiations.
USCIRF calls for such diplomacy to also occur in the U.S.-China Diplomatic and Security Dialogue and other levels of the relationships between the U.S. and China.
The trade negotiation comes as China’s persecution against Uighur Muslims, underground Christian communities, Fulan Gong and Tibetan Buddhists have continued unabated.
The USCIRF report notes that estimates show that as many as 800,000 to 2 million Uighur Muslims have been detained in Xinjiang.
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.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Samuel Smith