New Heritage report reveals ‘systemic persecution of Christians’

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Church in China destroyed (Video screenshot)

[Editor’s note: This story originally was published by The Daily Signal.]

By Samantha Aschieris
The Daily Signal

The Chinese Communist Party “has engaged in systemic persecution of Christians and other religious minorities,” according to an Asian studies expert and contributor of a newly released report on China.

Michael Cunningham, a research fellow in the Asian Studies Center at The Heritage Foundation, weighed in on the persecution of Christians and why it’s important for the U.S. and its allies to address the issue. (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation.)

“Christianity is booming in China and has been for some time. While estimates of the numbers of believers vary, some indicate China may be on track to have more Christians than the United States by the end of this decade,” Cunningham told The Daily Signal in an emailed statement. “Yet, since taking power, the CCP’s atheistic regime has engaged in systemic persecution of Christians and other religious minorities.”

“While China’s constitution claims to guarantee freedom of religious belief, religious practice has no such protection,” Cunningham said. “In addition to demolishing churches and detaining pastors, the CCP has also gone to great lengths to try to pervert Christian doctrine through a process of so-called “sinicization,” which seeks to ensure churches promote loyalty to the communist regime.”

Cunningham added:

One of the reasons they do this is that they view Christian values as a threat to the CCP’s legitimacy.

While the U.S. should unabashedly stand up for the rights of persecuted religious minorities regardless, this is just another reason the plight of China’s Christians should not be ignored.

The Heritage Foundation released an extensive paper on Tuesday titled “Winning The New Cold War: A Plan For Countering China.

“Estimates on the number of Christians living in China vary widely, from 30 million to more than 130 million and growing, divided between the state-run churches with clergy chosen by the CCP and underground churches,” the paper reads.

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The goal of the Communist Party, according to the paper, is “to diminish religion in Chinese culture and everyday life,” a goal that “has accelerated since Xi [Jinping] became general secretary.” Xi became general secretary in 2012 and secured another five-year term in October.

“Nevertheless, the Vatican has entered into an agreement in which the papacy and the CCP share authority to appoint Chinese Catholic bishops. The arrangement undermines religious freedom,” the report says. “Over the past four years, conditions for Christians have deteriorated dramatically, with churches demolished, bishops jailed, and Bibles burned.”

The agreement, originally signed in 2018 and renewed for a second time on Oct. 22, essentially allows the Chinese Communist Party to participate in selecting Catholic bishops, though Pope Francis has the “final say,” The Associated Press reported. The agreement’s full details are not publicly available.

In terms of action, the paper says, “the U.S. should challenge the CCP assault on religious liberty, underscoring China’s animus toward freedom and human rights.”

“A key component of this challenge must focus on the papacy,” the paper says. “The Vatican is a state. Therefore, the U.S. government, together with partners and allies, should vigorously engage with the papacy, encouraging the pontiff to revoke the agreement with Beijing, highlight the regime’s persecution of Christians, and adopt policies and measures to support the underground church.”

“Furthermore, the U.S. government should educate the American public on China’s draconian suppression of religion and mobilize governments and nongovernmental partners in a global information campaign,” the paper says. “The U.S. government should also look for ways to support organizations and initiatives that advocate for Christians and religious liberty in China, such as ChinaAid.”

The paper also focuses on implementation, such as legislation and sanctions for Chinese officials; impact, such as “a human rights campaign targeting those responsible for abuses against Christians in China [that would] impose reputational costs on the CCP,” and encouraging U.S. allies, such as The European Parliament, to speak out on these issues.

In addition to the persecution of Christians, the paper also discusses China’s “abhorrent human rights record,” notably the ongoing Uyghur genocide. Uyghurs are a “mostly Muslim, Turkic-speaking ethnic group” that has faced detention and worse since 2017, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

“In Xinjiang, the CCP is arguably committing some of the worst human rights atrocities of the 21st century. U.S. foreign policy toward China is incomplete without a plan to highlight and address the CCP’s gross human rights violations,” the paper says.

Adrian Zenz, director in China studies and senior fellow at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, recently testified at the Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party’s hearing titled “The Chinese Communist Party’s Ongoing Uyghur Genocide.”

“The latest evidence from the Xinjiang police files, both from the speech of China’s National Minister of Public Security, Zhao Kezhi, who estimates that over 2 million people in southern Xinjiang are infected by religious extremism requiring treatment,” Zenz said during the hearing.

“Holding CCP officials and entities accountable for undermining human rights should be a consistent priority for U.S. foreign policy, emphasizing it in every diplomatic engagement and international forum,” the paper says. “The U.S. should also provide support to those persecuted in China by providing access to information and resources to help them advocate for their basic human rights and individual liberties.”

[Editor’s note: This story originally was published by The Daily Signal.]

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