Inhofe, Reed Send Letter Holding Chinese Government Accountable for Religious Persecution

U.S. Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.), chairman and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging the Trump Administration to continue to hold the Chinese Communist Party accountable for religious persecution and human rights violations perpetrated against the people of China.

The Senators write: Despite the widespread consensus that religious freedom is a basic human right, power-hungry regimes throughout the world continue to suppress this freedom. The increasing religious persecution being perpetrated by the Chinese government against the people of China is deeply concerning.

They continue: “We request that you continue to explore options to halt Beijing's growing suppression of religious minorities and hold the Chinese government accountable for its actions, including through the imposition of sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act (P.L. 114-328, Subtitle F) on the Party Secretary for the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), Chen Quanguo, and other senior members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China whose responsibilities relate to the Xinjiang region.”

Read the full letter here and below:

Dear Secretary Pompeo:

Despite the widespread consensus that religious freedom is a basic human right, power­hungry regimes throughout the world continue to suppress this freedom. The increasing religious persecution being perpetrated by the Chinese government against the people of China is deeply concerning. We request that you continue to explore options to halt Beijing's growing suppression of religious minorities and hold the Chinese government accountable for its actions, including through the imposition of sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act (P.L. 114-328, Subtitle F) on the Party Secretary for the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), Chen Quanguo, and other senior members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China whose responsibilities relate to the Xinjiang region.

Over the course of the past several years, the government in China has significantly increased restrictions on individual freedoms in an attempt to prevent religious or cultural variance that the government views as a potential threat. President Xi Jinping's "Sinicization" campaign, which began in 2016, requires religious and ethnic minorities in the country to adhere to the Chinese Communist Party's thoughts, culture and practices. This policy, coupled with tighter regulations and the government's effort to exert greater control, has manifested in increased oppression and systematic discrimination of these minorities.

Perhaps most egregious is the government's massive internment of individuals from the XUAR. Reports estimate that at least one million people, primarily Uyghur Muslims, are currently being detained, indoctrinated, and manipulated in internment camps, many without knowledge of any impending release. Further, as described in State's 2018 Report on International Religious Freedom in Xinjiang, China, "There were reports of deaths in detention and disappearances. The government targeted individuals for detention based primarily on their ethnic and religious identities, and detainees were reportedly subjected to forms of torture or cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment, including sexual abuse." Even XUAR residents that are not in internment camps are subject to constant government surveillance via security checkpoints and technology with facial recognition spread throughout the region.

As has been documented, religious groups across the spectrum are suffering at the hands of the Chinese government. Churches that are officially registered with the government, as well as "house" churches that are not registered, are experiencing growing amounts of persecution. Since September 2018, the government has closed four of the largest house churches in China. Officials have raided and destroyed buildings and desecrated religious symbols, including burning crosses and forcing churches to erect government symbols. Countless pastors and church members have been arrested and imprisoned, and the government's overreaching, widespread surveillance has seeped its way into congregations, with officials forcing members to insert surveillance systems into their buildings. Beijing's long history of repressing religious minority groups also extends to Tibetan Buddhists and adherents of Falun Gong, who have been subject to persecution at the hands of both the government and society at large.

These examples merely scratch the surface of the suffering the Chinese government is inflicting on its people. The United States, along with several other countries, declared the following in the Statement on China released at the Department of State's Ministerial: "We strongly urge the Chinese government to protect the internationally recognized right to religious freedom of all individuals and to respect the human rights of members of all religious groups in accordance with China's human rights commitments."

We share the Administration's disapproval of the atrocities committed against religious minorities in China and your commitment to supporting access to these rights for all individuals. Thank you for your consideration of this request. 

Sincerely,