U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo presents the 2018 International Religious Freedom Report at the State Department in Washington, DC, on June 21. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm/AFP)
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has singled out China for its "extreme hostility” to religion and accused the ruling Communist Party of demanding “that it all alone be called God.”
Pompeo was speaking at the release of the U.S. Government’s 2018 Report on International Religious Freedom on June 21.
“In China, the government’s intense persecution of many faiths — Falun Gong practitioners Christians, and Tibetan Buddhists among them — is the norm,” Pompeo said.
“The Chinese Communist Party has exhibited extreme hostility to all religious faiths since its founding. The party demands that it alone be called God.”
The report reiterated criticism of China’s detention of between 800,000 and 2 million Muslims, mostly Uyghurs, in the Xinjiang region of western China.
“I had a chance to meet with some Uyghurs here, but unfortunately, most Chinese Uyghurs don’t get a chance to tell their stories,” Pompeo said.
“That’s why, in an effort to document the staggering scope of religious freedom abuses in Xinjiang, we’ve added a special section to this year’s China report."
The report includes details on China’s restrictions such as its limiting of the religious freedoms of believers under the auspices of state-run faith organizations such as the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.
“Only religious groups belonging to one of the five state-sanctioned ‘patriotic religious associations’ [Buddhist, Taoist, Muslim, Catholic, and Protestant] are permitted to register with the government and officially permitted to hold worship services,” the report said.
“There continued to be reports of deaths in custody and that the government tortured, physically abused, arrested, detained, sentenced to prison, or harassed adherents of both registered and unregistered religious groups for activities related to their religious beliefs and practices,” it said.
The report notably stated that a provisional agreement reached last September between the Holy See and the Chinese government — described as a landmark deal but the details of which have not been published — would only “reportedly” resolve the long-running question of who has authority to appoint bishops in China.
Also speaking at the release of the report was Sam Brownback — the ambassador at large for international religious freedom — who said that the ruling party had increased its repression of Christians.
Brownback also highlighted concerns over claims of state-sanctioned organ harvesting.
“We share reports — again, that others make — that Chinese authorities have subjected prisoners of conscience, including Falun Gong, Uyghurs, Tibetan Buddhists, and underground Christians, to forcible organ harvesting,” Brownback said. “This should shock everyone’s conscience.”