Religious freedom worsened in China in 2020, with government officials demolishing church buildings, imprisoning Christians, and using surveillance technologies to track religious minorities, according to an annual report by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.
China was one of 14 nations named as a “country of particular concern” by USCIRF, a bipartisan and independent federal government entity established by Congress to monitor religious liberty violations worldwide and make recommendations to the president, the State Department and Congress. The other countries were Burma, Eritrea, India, Iran, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Vietnam and Turkmenistan.
USCIRF recommended that the State Department designate all 14 nations as countries of “particular concern” for violations of religious freedom.
“This past year was challenging for most nations trying to balance public health concerns alongside the fundamental right to freedom of religion or belief. Though some governments took advantage of the restrictions to target specific religious communities, we were encouraged by the positive steps various countries took. For example, as a result of COVID-19 outbreaks, many prisoners of conscience were furloughed or released, such as in Eritrea,” said Gayle Manchin, chair of USCIRF. “USCIRF will continue to monitor how countries respond to and recover from COVID-19, and whether the loosening of restrictions is fair to people of all faiths and nonbelievers.”
China was one of the countries where religious freedom worsened, the report says.
“Religious freedom conditions in China deteriorated” in 2020, the report says.
The report said the Chinese government and other government officials:
- “intensified” their “‘sinicization of religion’ policy, particularly targeting religions perceived to have foreign connections, such as Christianity, Islam, and Tibetan Buddhism.”
- “continued their unprecedented use of advanced surveillance technologies to monitor and track religious minorities.”
- “harassed, detained, arrested, and imprisoned members of Protestant house churches who refuse to join the state-sanctioned ‘Three-Self Patriotic Movement.’”
- “continued to demolish both Catholic and Protestant church buildings and crosses under its ‘sinicization of religion’ campaign.”
China, the report says, is guilty of “systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.” USCIRF urged the U.S. government to “express concerns” about Beijing hosting the 2022 Winter Olympic Games and declare that U.S. government officials will not attend the games if China's “crackdown on religious freedom continues.”
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Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Panuwat Dangsungnoen
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.