U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF): 2011 Annual Report

United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, 28 April 2011

USCIRF — The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released its 2011 Annual Report and recommended that the Secretary of State name the following nations “countries of particular concern” or CPCs:  Burma, China, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam. CPCs are nations whose conduct marks them as the world’s worst religious freedom violators and human rights abusers.

The 1998 International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) requires that the United States designate annually as CPCs countries whose governments have engaged in or tolerated systematic and egregious violations of the universal right to freedom of religion or belief.  USCIRF’s Annual Report assesses conditions in these and other nations and provides policy prescriptions tailored to each CPC.

Summary of the chapter on the People’s Republic of China

FINDINGS:

Unregistered religious groups or those deemed by the Chinese government to threaten national security or social harmony continue to face severe restrictions, although the government tolerates some religious activity within approved organizations. Religious freedom conditions for Tibetan Buddhists and Uighur Muslims remain particularly acute as the government broadened its efforts to discredit and imprison religious leaders, control the selection of clergy, ban religious gatherings, and control the distribution of religious literature by members of these groups. The government also detained over five hundred unregistered Protestants in the past year and stepped up efforts to destroy churches and close ―illegal meeting points. Dozens of unregistered Catholic clergy remain in detention, in home confinement, or have disappeared. Falun Gong adherents continue to be targeted by extralegal security forces and tortured and mistreated in detention. The Chinese government also continues to harass, detain, intimidate, disbar, and forcibly disappear attorneys who defend the Falun Gong, Tibetans, Uighurs, and unregistered Protestants.

Because of these systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom, USCIRF recommends in 2011 that China again be designated as a ―country of particular concern, or CPC. The State Department has designated China as a CPC since 1999.

Religious communities continue to grow rapidly in China. Hundreds of millions of Chinese manifest their belief openly. Senior-level government officials, including President Hu Jintao, have praised the positive role of religious communities and articulated a desire for religious groups to promote ―economic and social development. There are reports that the government is considering legalizing charitable activities of recognized religious organizations. These are positive steps that could lead to greater accommodation of religious activity sanctioned by the government. At the same time, the government praises religious groups who resist ―foreign infiltration, supports extralegal security forces to suppress the activities of so-called cult organizations, actively harasses, imprisons, tortures, and disappears advocates for greater religious freedom, destroys unregistered religious venues, and severely restricts online access to religious information and the authority of religious communities to choose their own leadership and parents to teach their children religion.

PRIORITY RECOMMENDATIONS:

Religious freedom encompasses many issues in U.S.-China relations, including the rule of law, freedom of expression, and the well-being of ethnic minorities. Promoting religious freedom in China is a vital U.S. interest that can positively affect the United States‘ future security, economic, and political relations with China. As part of China‘s CPC designation, USCIRF urges the Secretary of State to impose a new sanction targeting officials or state agencies that perpetuate religious freedom abuses or provinces where religious freedom conditions are most egregious. In addition, USCIRF recommends that the U.S. raise religious freedom concerns in multilateral fora where the United States and China are members, coordinate potential sources of leverage within the U.S. government and with allies to build a consistent human rights diplomacy with China, develop and distribute proven technologies to counter Internet censorship, raise religious freedom and negotiate binding human rights agreements at the U.S.-China Strategic Dialogue, and integrate human rights concerns, consistently and openly, into the entire structure of U.S.-China bilateral relations. Additional recommendations for U.S. policy towards China can be found at the end of this chapter.

The report can be downloaded here (the chapter on China starts at page 124).