Religion With “Chinese Characteristics”: Persecution and Control in Xi Jinping’s China
The Communist Party continues to see religious groups as a potential threat, needing to be managed, controlled, or crushed. In fact, the Party issued guidelines in May prohibiting religious believers as members. President Xi Jinping said recently that religious groups must be free of “foreign influence,” loyal to the “socialist state,” and managed “by the law.” No faith group is exempt from state control. New laws issued this year view “cults” and strong religious adherence among Uyghur Muslims as national security problems, legitimizing draconian restrictions against this population. In the past year, crosses on Christian churches were torn down reportedly because they attracted too much attention. Expanded efforts were made to undermine the Dalai Lama’s influence among Tibetans and control the selection of Buddhist leaders. Falun Gong practitioners continue to face efforts to eradicate their spiritual practice, through torture, detention in ‘transformation centers,’ and organ harvesting from prisoners. Even lawyers who defend vulnerable religious groups and other “sensitive cases,” face disbarment, detention, and physical violence as evidenced by the recent crackdown on rights attorneys, many of whom had defended individuals targeted by the government for their religious beliefs and practices.
In short, religious freedom restrictions are pervasive and widespread, affecting all of China’s diverse faith communities. How China accommodates its growing and vibrant religious communities is not only a paramount human rights concern, but may determine China’s future stability and prosperity. According to a 2015 study by the Pew Research Center, for example, countries with the highest levels of religious freedom have the lowest levels of religiously related violence. Additional academic research has revealed a correlation between religious freedom and economic development.
This hearing will examine the restrictions faced by religious communities in China and will explore why protecting religious freedom matters for China’s future stability and prosperity. It will also seek recommendations for advancing this most basic of human rights, especially in the context of the scheduled September visit to Washington by President Xi.
Losang Gyatso: Service Chief, the Tibetan Service, Voice of America
Rebiya Kadeer: President, the World Uyghur Congress
Bob Fu: President and Founder, ChinaAid
Anastasia Lin: Actress, Human Rights Advocate, and Miss World Canada 2015