All religions have suffered persecution in China under Xi Jinping, say reports from US-based watchdogs
Chinese authorities have intensified a crackdown on religions, especially on banned cult movements, rights watchdogs say. (Photo: Bitter Winter)
Chinese authorities have intensified their crackdown on both authorized and unauthorized religious groups, resulting in widespread human rights violations, say reports from two groups monitoring freedom and religious liberty in the communist country.
The bipartisan and bicameral US Congressional-Executive Commission on China released its annual report on March 31, documenting what it calls “the horrors the Chinese government and Communist Party perpetrate against the Chinese people.”
The report highlights an extremely grim picture of religious freedom in China, Bitter Winter reported on April 5.
It pointed out that the condition of all religious groups, both authorized and unauthorized, has gone from “bad to worse” in China under President Xi Jinping. The Chinese regime has used the pretext of the Covid-19 pandemic to introduce more surveillance targeting all forms of dissent including “illegal” religions.
All five authorized religions — Buddhism, Islam, Taoism, Catholicism and Protestantism — have suffered persecution, it said, adding that the 2018 Vatican-China deal on bishop appointments didn’t deliver any benefits for Catholics.
The report also covered the eradication of the Turkic identity of Muslims in Xinjiang, Tibetan Buddhism in Tibet, Mongolian identity in Inner Mongolia and the destruction of democracy and human rights in Hong Kong. It recorded a marked increase in persecution of Hui Muslims, who are ethnically distinct from the predominant Han Chinese people.
The foundation says China has launched new levels of oppression against unorthodox religious groups, noting that the Church of Almighty God and Falun Gong were among the most persecuted groups
It also highlighted the ongoing crackdown on freedom of the press, human trafficking of women as brides from North Korea, human rights violations against workers and discrimination against the LGBT community.
Referring to Bitter Winter, which has been documenting violation of rights and religious freedom in China since 2018, the report said that China has intensified suppression of Xie Jiao (evil cults), a collective of banned cult movements including the Church of Almighty God, Association of Disciples and Falun Gong.
Hundreds of members of these groups have arrested, jailed and tortured under Article 300 of China’s Criminal Law, which warrants prosecution of illegal religions.
The Dui Hua Foundation, a San Francisco-based Chinese human rights group, also documented persecution of unauthorized religions in China its 66-page annual report titled “The Persecution of Unorthodox Religious Groups in China.”
The foundation says China has launched new levels of oppression against unorthodox religious groups, noting that the Church of Almighty God and Falun Gong were among the most persecuted groups.
It also mentioned repression of an international Muslim missionary group, Tablighi Jamaat, in China.
Dui Hua also revealed that the Chinese government has ordered the withholding of data from China Judgements Online (CJO), a massive legal database.
In 2021, authorities withheld some 11 million pieces of data, allegedly after they realized human rights groups had been pulling information from CJO to document violations of human rights and religious liberty in China.
“If the number of unorthodox religious adherents was incorporated into official figures, then the number of all religious practitioners in China would far exceed the current government figure of 200 million official practitioners”
The foundation listed 41 religious groups facing persecution in China, even small groups like Yiguandao, a salvationist sect. The group was among the most persecuted religious movements in the 1950s and it still faces persecution today.
The reports say China’s renewed crackdown on unauthorized religious groups stems from their popularity during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Despite the persecution, Dui Hua said, the number of followers of unorthodox religions remains remarkably high, but they are not counted in the government’s official statistics.
“If the number of unorthodox religious adherents was incorporated into official figures, then the number of all religious practitioners in China would far exceed the current government figure of 200 million official practitioners,” it commented.
Practicing religion is difficult and strictly monitored in officially atheist China. All religions are required to register with state-sanctioned bodies and to obtain prior permission for all activities.
The New Regulations on Religious Affairs of 2018 stipulate strong surveillance of religious organizations and penalties for clergy and laypeople for engaging in any activity the state deems illegal and unauthorized.
The state has also strongly promoted the strict implementation of the policy of Sinicization for all religious entities.
Sinicization is a political ideology that aims to impose strict rules on societies and institutions based on the core values of socialism, autonomy and supporting the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party.
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