Chairs’ Statement on Religious Crackdown in China Targeting Christian Churches

December 19, 2018

(Washington, DC)—Senator Marco Rubio and Representative Chris Smith, the chair and cochair respectively of the bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), issued the following statement regarding the escalating crackdown on Protestant Christian believers in China, including the targeting of Zion Church in Beijing, Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, and Rongguili Church in Guangzhou.  Rongguili is the third major unregistered church in China since September to be forcibly shuttered by authorities.  Among those detained in connection with the crackdown on Early Rain Covenant Church are prominent Chinese pastor and legal scholar Wang Yi, as well as his wife, Jiang Rong, and roughly 100 church lay leaders and seminary students. 

“We are deeply concerned by the escalating crackdown against Christians in China, including the forced closure of prominent Protestant churches, confiscation of church property and harassment and detention of church and lay leaders alike.  These developments are set against the backdrop of the human rights crisis unfolding in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, where upwards of a million or more Uyghur and other Muslims have been interned in “political reeducation” camps, amidst growing reports of forced labor.

In short, Chinese President and Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping’s efforts to “sinicize” religion are taking a devastating human toll.  Chinese officials and others complicit in severe religious freedom violations must be held accountable and specific cases of those unjustly harassed, detained, and imprisoned must be raised at the highest levels of government. As Christians around the world prepare to celebrate Christmas, China’s Christians and other faith communities are under siege and treated as enemies of the state for daring to worship and peacefully live out their faith.”

BACKGROUND: The Chinese Government has long imposed harsh policies against unregistered Christian churches, Uyghur Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists, Falun Gong practitioners, and other new religious movements the Chinese government has labeled as “cults.” Set against this grim backdrop, the number of Chinese religious believers has grown rapidly for several decades after the Cultural Revolution. In 2016 Chinese President and Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping launched a “sinicization” campaign, resulting in unprecedented efforts to manage, control, and even transform the religious practices of tens of millions of China’s citizens. In 2018, revised Religious Affairs Regulations took effect and the United Front Work Department (UFWD) took over direct responsibility for religious and ethnic affairs. The UFWD is charged with securing the support of non-Party sectors of society, including religious groups. By placing religion under the direct management of the UFWD and issuing new legal rules to govern religious practice, Xi Jinping has asserted more direct control over religious life in China. In the past year, religious venues were demolished, Bibles burned, and over a million Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities were interned, with many forced to renounce their religious faith.  Last week, Secretary of State Pompeo re-designated China a Country of Particular Concern (CPC), as it has been since 1999, for its severe, ongoing, egregious, and systematic violations of religious freedom.  For additional information on the religious freedom situation in China, please see the Commission’s 2018 Annual Report.