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September 4, 2018

Wilberforce A!ert: Sanctions and the sacred in China

The subject of China and sanctions has been topping the headlines lately. Buried or forgotten in most stories, however, is the essential linkage to religious freedom. Back in 2001 when China was admitted to the World Trade Organization, many expressed concern over the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) human rights and religious freedom record. While some argued more trade with China would lead to greater respect of its people’s rights, others were dubious.

It would seem the skeptics have prevailed, as human rights conditions in China continue to worsen among every religious community.

Hundreds of house churches have been shut down throughout China in an attempt by the CCP to make the church a tool of the government. Near the city of Nanyang, for example, officials raided a church located on the property of a local shopkeeper. They confiscated its cross and a painting of the Last Supper, and members were ordered to register with the government. “They were never this severe before, not since I started going to church in the ‘80s,” said the church’s pastor. “Why are they telling us to stop now?”

Indeed, nearly 50 house churches in Beijing have reportedly encountered unprecedented antagonism since the beginning of the year. Even government-approved churches are feeling the pressure, and many rights groups warn that China is more repressive now than at any point since Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

Christians are not alone in having their fundamental rights denied. It is widely reported that Falun Gong members are used to facilitate organ harvesting for the black market. The CCP denies these accounts but has produced no evidence to refute the charges. An exhibit of human cadavers in the UK is under investigation to determine if the bodies on display are those of Chinese political prisoners, including the Falun Gong.

The Dalai Lama remains in exile even as high-ranking officials urge new crackdowns against “separatism” factions in Tibet. Only two years ago, hundreds of Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns were evicted from their homes, which the regime then demolished.

Uighur Muslims are among the most repressed groups in China, with as many as one million detained in “re-education camps.” Children are taught to report if parents pray in the home, and giving children religious names is illegal. Now, China is reportedly using sophisticated technology, including artificial intelligence, to control Uighurs and track their movements. All too often the CCP is using American resources and tools to power its efforts to become a high-tech police state.

Google, for example, is developing a censored version of its popular search application, which would allow China to mask the truth about its treatment of Uighurs and other religious communities. 21Wilberforce joins Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch in calling on Google and others to stop fueling China’s human rights abuses and anti-freedom policies. We also support calls within Congress to impose sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for human rights abuses against Uighurs and other minority groups.

Concerns about China’s human rights policies remain as valid today as when China was admitted to the World Trade Organization nearly two decades ago. The ongoing conversation about sanctions and China’s participation in the international trade system cannot be separated from the egregious violations China perpetrates against its own citizens. It is appropriate and essential that the Trump administration continue to raise these concerns. The fundamental rights of the Chinese people depend on it.

Nathan Wineinger, Director of Policy and Coalitions

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Keywords: Uighurs, China, Sanctions, Persecution, 21Wilberforce

Nathan Wineinger

Nathan comes to 21CWI from DAI, an international development firm. As the Director of Policy Relations, he brings 10 years of domestic and international policy, human rights, and coalition building experience working with government agencies, community service organizations, and public media. Nathan holds a Master’s of Public Policy degree from the University of Chicago, and a B.A. in both Economics and Theatre from Washington University in St. Louis.

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