USCIRF and China Aid publish annual reports on religious freedom
China Aid focused on persecuted house church Christians in China, USCIRF identified 14 countries, insisting for a stronger stance on Russia.
by Massimo Introvigne
In recent days, two important documents have highlighted the sad status of religious freedom in China and other countries.
USCIRF, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, is an independent, bipartisan US government commission established by the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998. Its commissioners are appointed by the president and congressional leaders from both political parties.
USCIRF Annual report 2021 recommends that the State Department designate 14 countries as “countries of particular concern” (CPC) for their serious violations of religious freedom. These include 10 already designated as CPCs by the State Department in December 2020 – Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan – and four more – India, Russia, Syria and Vietnam
The 2021 annual report also recommends placing 12 countries on the State Department’s Special Watch List (SWL) as religious freedom violators. These include two already on the list – Cuba and Nicaragua – and 10 more – Afghanistan, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Turkey and Uzbekistan. USCIRF noted improvements in the religious freedom situation in Bahrain, Central African Republic (CAR) and Sudan, which were among its SWL recommendations in the 2020 Annual Report but are not designated for SWL in 2021.
About a country Bitter winter has regularly investigated in recent months, USCIRF notes that “conditions for religious freedom in Pakistan have continued to worsen. The government systematically enforced blasphemy and anti-Ahmadiyya laws and failed to protect religious minorities from abuse by non-state actors. There has been a sharp increase in targeted assassinations, cases of blasphemy, forced conversions and hate speech targeting religious minorities, including Ahmadis, Shia Muslims, Hindus, Christians and Sikhs. “
USCIRF is calling on the Biden administration to toughen its stance on Russia as one of the world’s worst violators of religious freedom, claiming this. “In 2020, the conditions for religious freedom in Russia deteriorated. The government continued to target “non-traditional” religious minorities with fines, detentions and criminal charges. Russian law criminalizes “extremism” without properly defining the term, allowing the state to pursue a wide range of non-violent religious activities. “
USCIRF also notes that criticism of the Russian Orthodox Church is often treated as blasphemy and reports that “Russia has the third highest number of cases of criminal blasphemy in the world, behind Pakistan and Iran. [USCIRF] also found that Russia led the world in criminal blasphemy cases related to social media. The report summarizes the harsh persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia and references the earlier USCIRF document on Russian international promotion of the anti-cult movement. He notes that, for example, under the influence of Russia, in Kazakhstan, Scientologists “of Nur-Sultan were required to attend” preventive consultations “, where they were threatened and ordered to sign a declaration denouncing and disavowing Scientology. ”
The section on China discusses the notorious transformation through the educational camps and notes that the Chinese authorities “have sent millions of Muslims to these camps for wearing long beards, refusing alcohol or exhibiting other behaviors considered to be signs of “religious extremism”. Former detainees have reported acts of torture, rape, sterilization and other abuses in detention. Experts have expressed concern that the Chinese government’s ongoing actions in Xinjiang could constitute genocide under international law. Reports have also highlighted the use of forced Uyghur labor in internment and prison camps, factories and industrial parks in the region. In addition, the authorities continued to carry out large-scale closures and destruction of Uyghur religious sites. “
The CCP continued in 2020, according to the report, its “ubiquitous control and suppression of Tibetan Buddhism” and independent Christianity. USCIRF notes that “despite the Vatican-China bishop appointment agreement, Chinese authorities continued to harass, detain and torture underground Catholic bishops,” as they did with pastors of Protestant house churches. . Bitter winter on the destruction of churches, crosses and Buddhist and Taoist statues and temples.
On themes familiar to readers of Bitter winter, USCIRF reiterates that “The 2018 Revised Religious Affairs Regulation effectively prohibits all ‘unauthorized’ religious teachings and expands the role of local authorities in monitoring religious activities. Under Article 300 of the Chinese Penal Code, simply belonging to certain religious movements, such as Falun Gong or the Church of Almighty God, is punishable by three to seven years in prison – or up to life imprisonment for cases that the authorities consider more serious. “
More details on the persecution of Protestant house churches, not part of the government-controlled Church of the Three Autonomies, and of Catholic conscientious objectors who refuse to join the Patriotic Catholic Church even after the Vatican accord -China from 2018, are offered by the Annual persecution report 2020 published by the famous NGO ChinaAid.
The report notes that the COVID crisis has been one of the factors aggravating the persecution, as surveillance has been stepped up under the pretext of fighting the pandemic. “There was no social distancing from the persecution,” said ChinaAid chairman Dr. Bob Fu.
2020, ChinaAid notes, was the third year of Xi Jinping’s five-year plan for the sinization of Chinese Christianity. Although state churches that are part of the Church of the Three Autonomies have also been harassed and coerced into including more “patriotic” and pro-CCP material in their sermons and services, it has become increasingly clear that the sinization aims to destroy the independent activities of the Chamber. Churches. The report states that 100% of house churches were harassed or persecuted in 2020. All the main leaders of the house church movement were summoned and questioned by police, and some were arrested.
“ChinaAid clearly detected intensified persecution in 2020 compared to the previous year.” “The year 2020 has seen an increase in cases involving authorities threatening or detaining Christians, banning house churches, as well as increasing demolition of church buildings and crosses. Many house church pastors have confirmed that the situation for Chinese Christians has worsened. The report discusses the tragedy at the Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu as a case study of how the CCP is trying to eradicate house churches that maintain their independence.
While the religious freedom situation deteriorated in several countries in 2020, China continues to hold the world record for persecution.