According to a senior State Department official, China’s ruling regime remains one of the most egregious violators of human rights and religious freedom globally. The regime is accused of genocide and crimes against humanity against Uyghurs, and they continue to repress Tibetan Buddhists, Protestants, Catholics, Falun Gong, and Hui Muslims. The State Department plans to use various tools, including financial sanctions, visa restrictions, and cooperation with international partners, to counter the regime’s mistreatment of religious minorities. The official expressed concern that the situation in China is deteriorating, and the US will continue to employ all available resources to help the Chinese people combat government repression.
The annual report on international religious freedom released by the US State Department contains several accounts of individuals who are facing difficulties in practicing their faith due to the Chinese regime’s constant efforts to suppress it.
One such instance is of Gao Heng, a member of Guangzhou Bible Reform Church, who was secretly tried and sentenced in February for holding a sign reading “pray for the country” at a subway station in 2021. The charges against him were “provoking trouble and picking quarrels.” The details of his sentence are not clear.
Another case mentioned in the report is of Chen Wenshang, who was arrested in March 2022 for preaching the gospel in public. He had been arrested six times in 2021 in Hengyang city of Hunan Province in central China.
According to the Human Rights Without Frontiers Organization, at least 2,649 people have been imprisoned for exercising their freedom of belief in China. Among these individuals, over 2,100 are Falun Gong practitioners, 23 are Muslims, 40 are Christians, and 20 are Buddhists. However, due to a lack of transparency over religious persecution, some estimates suggest that the actual number may be even higher, potentially reaching 10,000 or more.
The spiritual practice of Falun Gong, which is based on the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance, had a massive following of 70 to 100 million adherents by 1999. However, that year, the Chinese regime launched a violent crackdown on the group. According to Minghui.org, a website that collects firsthand accounts of the regime’s persecution, 172 Falun Gong practitioners have died as a result of persecution, while 446 others have been sentenced to prison terms ranging from six months to 15 years for practicing their faith. Among the
victims was Ji Yunzhi, a practitioner who died in March 2022, leaving behind her son Simon Zhang.
According to the State Department report, Ji Yunzhi, a Falun Gong practitioner, was abused and beaten while in police custody in February. She was force-fed and slapped in the face after going on a hunger strike to protest her treatment. She died seven weeks later in a hospital in Inner Mongolia, and police transferred her body to a crematorium against her family’s wishes. The report also mentioned the case of Cui Jinshi, an 88-year-old who was studying Falun Gong with others at home when police broke in and arrested her. Hours later, her son learned that she had died in an emergency room with her throat cut. Several other imprisoned Falun Gong practitioners died in custody after being denied medical parole.
According to Senator Marco Rubio, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has become skilled in its persecution of religious groups, including its acts of genocide against Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities. In addition, the CCP has imposed new restrictions on online religious content generated within China and has prohibited foreign organizations from offering virtual religious information services in China. The State Department report has heightened concerns about human rights abuses in the PRC, as stated by Vedant Patel, principal deputy spokesperson for the department. According to Vedant Patel, the principal deputy spokesperson for the State Department, the United States remains aware of the human rights abuses in China and has taken historic actions to hold violators accountable. While he did not provide any details on future steps, he emphasized that the US has already sanctioned Chinese officials for human rights violations in Tibet and arbitrary detention of Falun Gong practitioners in Chongqing. The US has also declined to send diplomatic representation to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics due to the regime’s ongoing human rights abuses. Patel added that the US regularly raises the issue of human rights in bilateral engagements with China and will continue to do so.