Although freedom of religion and belief is enshrined as an inalienable human right, its exercise is increasingly restricted.

As a human right, freedom of religion implies the need and duty to protect the human dignity of its followers, as is the case with all rights in this category. 

The Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) stated in World Religious Freedom Report 2021 that “violations of religious freedom occur in almost one third of the world’s countries (62 out of 196), many of them the most populous nations such as China, India and Pakistan.”

Persecution under the Chinese regime

The persecution against members of all faiths and religions that still exist in China is one of the violations that most countries and international organizations are complaining about and protesting to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).   

And this persecution campaign, which is part of a state policy, is so relentless that a direct reference to it could not be missed at the recent 20th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party. 

The intervention was made by the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, which is one of the official supervisory bodies of the Chinese regime. It is also called, paradoxically, the Three-Self Church.

This CCP body presented a report on how Christianity is being “Sinicized” (to modify by Chinese influence”), as reported by Zhang Chunhua for Bitter Winter on October 15. 

This process includes “the work done in Sinicizing the architecture of Christian churches, which in practice means destroying or downsizing crosses and other specific Christian symbols and making places of worship more similar in their external appearance to secular halls and in some cases to Taoist or Buddhist temples.” 

The report explained how the original beliefs of the intervening faiths are interfered with, through “Sinicization.” “It means making religion compatible with ‘the Marxist view of religion’ and ‘Socialist religious theory with Chinese characteristics.’”

Everything gets worse when one is reminded that “Marxism is an atheistic ideology.”

Thus, “Religion can survive for an indefinite time, provided that—as Xi Jinping stated at the 2021 conference—it accepts that its role in China is to persuade believers they should support the CCP, and understands that it ‘should not interfere with social life’ and stay away from the education of the younger generations.”

Countries denouncing the CCP’s persecution of religious freedom

On the other hand, one of the countries that defends human rights, and in particular freedom of religion and conscience, is the United States. 

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom reports on its website, “Religious freedom conditions in China continue to deteriorate. The communist Chinese government has created a high-tech surveillance state, utilizing facial recognition and artificial intelligence to monitor and harass Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, Falun Gong and other religions.”

And it adds some figures, “Independent experts estimate that between 900,000 and 1.8 million Uyghur, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, and other Muslims have been detained in more than 1,300 concentration camps in Xinjiang.”

Moreover, among other measures that seek to punish the exploitation of these prisoners, the U.S. passed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act to control imports originating in Xinjiang, China, where most of these CCP concentration camps are reportedly located.

The implementation of this law led to a decrease in the demand for cotton grown with Uyghur slave labor, and consequently prices fell by more than 20%, only a month and a half after the law was enforced.

Likewise, the atrocities that the citizens persecuted by the CCP are subjected to are so extreme that the crimes against the Uyghur minority were recognized by the U.S. as a systemic and organized genocide to reduce the Muslim population. 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in 2021 statement

“After careful examination of the available facts, I have determined that since at least March 2017, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), under the direction and control of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), has committed crimes against humanity against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other members of ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang.”

Subsequently, several countries also declared these violations of human rights and freedom of religion and belief as genocide. Among them are the United Kingdom, Canada, and the Netherlands.

The atrocities committed against members of the ancient spiritual tradition of Falun Dafa or Falun Gong are also tirelessly denounced. 

Thus, the director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, Nina Shea, spoke out in their defense, declaring, “American policymakers should clearly condemn this persecution against Falun Gong and declare it a genocide,” earlier this year. 

Shea also denounced the CCP’s crimes against practitioners, “[The CCP] has targeted Falun Gong detainees for involuntary organ harvesting, in addition to mass internment, disappearance, and torture.” Their persecution has been going on for more than 23 years. 

She added, “This means that victims are either killed while or shortly before their hearts, livers, lungs, and kidneys are surgically excised to be sold in what Beijing boasts is the world’s largest organ-transplant market.” 

The Open Doors organization published in its 2022 report on the Chinese regime’s religious persecution, “Surveillance in China is among the most oppressive and sophisticated in the world.”

It added that the state rigorously monitors church attendance and many churches are closed down, doesn’t matter if they are House churches or if they belong to the Three-Self Patriotic Movement. And it is illegal for anyone under 18 to attend church.

Open Doors also reported that of the over 4,200 Christians arrested, jailed, or detained without charges on faith-related reasons in the world, 1,147 can be attributed to the CCP. A similar trend was present for “attacks and forced closures of churches,” “with the vast majority recorded in China, followed by Nigeria.”

Importance of freedom of religion and belief

For some analysts, the so-called “Sinicization,” is nothing more than political management, as author Thomas Harvey, in the media of the Lausanne Movement, put it, “For Xi, however, ‘Sinicization’ is profoundly political. It requires religious leaders and institutions demonstrably to embrace State Socialism and the leadership of the CCP.”

In Harvey’s view, the CCP’s religious persecution is not necessarily bound to succeed. Precisely the technology used to intensify it gives a choice to believers to maintain their beliefs. 

Thus, he writes: “Given their, and civil society’s ability to adapt quickly, it is doubtful that the UFWD (Party’s United Front Work Department) attempts at assimilation will do more than compel loyalty of the lips, but not the heart, of the Chinese people.” 

Indeed, as quoted by ACN, “The right to freedom of religion or belief certainly continues to be ‘one of the foundations of a democratic society,’ as the European Court of Human Rights reminds us. Indeed, it is a precious asset.”

The systematic persecution of ancestral religions has deeply damaged the values of today’s civilization. International media organization notes part of these effects, after relating a story from antiquity, expressing

“Unlike Qiao [the character in the story], many people in today’s China no longer believe in the divine, having been brainwashed by Chinese Communist Party (CCP) atheist ideology.” 

It adds, “With no reverence for the divine, they do not understand the karmic relationships that influence life outcomes; that is, good and evil will be rewarded accordingly with more virtue bringing in good fortunes and more karma resulting in misfortunes.”

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