policy recommendations for the President, Secretary of State and Congress
United State Commission of International
Today the United State Commission of International Religious Freedom announced its policy recommendations for the President, Secretary of State and Congress.
Sections of this Annual Report's sections regarding the state of religious affairs in China are shown below.
To review this entire report, please visit their web site at : www.uscirf.gov.
"Synopsis of the Commission¡¯s Work with Respect to Specific Countries and Issues
During the current reporting period, the Commission engaged in a course of activities to bring to the attention of policymakers violations of religious freedom and opportunities to advance human rights, including religious freedom, in numerous countries. The Commission has also addressed specific religious freedom issues that cut across particular countries or regions. The Commission¡¯s work on specific countries and issues is discussed below.
The Commission has continued to monitor and report on the deterioration of protections for religious freedom in China in the current reporting year. The Chinese government commits numerous egregious violations against members of many of China¡¯s religious and spiritual communities, including Evangelical Christians, Roman Catholics, Tibetan Buddhists, Uighur Muslims, and other groups, such as the Falun Gong, that the government has labeled ¡°evil cults.¡± In addition, the Commission is concerned about the 30,000 to 300,000 North Koreans who are currently in China, having fled severe repression in their country. The Chinese government has refused to grant refugee status to these individuals and has forcibly repatriated many of them. In September 2002, the Commission wrote to Secretary Powell recommending that he continue to designate China as a CPC, which he did in March 2003.
In a letter to Deputy Secretary Richard Armitage in August 2002, the Commission urged, in his meetings with Chinese officials in preparation for President Jiang Zemin¡¯s October 2002 meeting with President Bush in Crawford, Texas, that he ensure religious freedom, particularly the release of persons imprisoned on account of their religious beliefs, be a prominent agenda item for discussion between Presidents Bush and Jiang. Reportedly, Secretary Armitage stressed the absolute need for China to treat the Uighur Muslim minority with respect and dignity. The Commission also wrote to President Bush in October 2002 urging him to raise the issue of the Chinese government¡¯s continued violent crackdown on the freedom of religion and belief, as well as the plight of North Koreans who have fled to China, with President Jiang at his Crawford, Texas, meeting in October. In President Bush¡¯s remarks subsequent to this meeting, he stated that he shared with President Jiang ¡°the importance of China freeing prisoners of conscience and giving fair treatment to peoples of faith.¡±4
Also in accordance with a Commission recommendation, the Senate introduced and unanimously passed a concurrent resolution in the 107th Congress that called on China to make an effort to identify and protect North Korean refugees, allow them to petition for asylum, give the UNHCR access to North Koreans in China, and halt the repatriation of refugees seeking asylum.5
For three years, the Commission has requested an official invitation to visit China. At the December 2002 U.S.-China bilateral human rights dialogue in Beijing, Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Lorne Craner, and Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, John V. Hanford III, requested and received an oral invitation for the Commission from the Chinese government. Discussions are underway between the Commission, the State Department, and the Chinese Foreign Ministry for the Commission to conduct a trip to China in the near future. In January 2003, Commissioners Nina Shea and Shirin Tahir-Kheli met with the U.S. Ambassador to China to discuss the Commission¡¯s concerns about religious freedom violations in that country and the Chinese government¡¯s invitation for the Commission to visit.
The Commission held a China Religious Freedom Roundtable in March 2003. The Roundtable brought together in an off-the-record setting senior policymakers, China experts, and representatives of religious and other non-governmental organizations to share views on advancing religious freedom in China. Members of Congress and Administration officials present included: Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas; Representative Chris Smith of New Jersey; Representative Mike Pence of Indiana; Assistant Secretary Craner; Ambassador Hanford; and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Randall Schriver. The topics discussed at the Roundtable, the first in an on-going series, included the U.S.-China bilateral human rights dialogue, U.S. preparation for the 59th Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights, and ways that religious freedom and related human rights can be advanced within the framework of U.S.-China relations.
The Chinese government remains a particularly severe violator of religious freedom. Persons continue to be confined, tortured, imprisoned, and subject to other forms of ill treatment on account of their religion or belief. Groups subject to such repressive acts include Protestant Christians, Roman Catholics, Tibetan Buddhists, Uighur Muslims, and others, such as members of Falun Gong, that the government has labeled ¡°evil cults.¡± In fact, in the past year, official respect for religious freedom in China has diminished. Chinese government officials have continued to claim the right to control, monitor, and restrain religious practice in that country, purportedly to protect public safety, order, health, and so forth. As part of China¡¯s crackdown on religious and spiritual believers, individuals have been charged with, or detained under suspicion of, offenses that essentially penalize them for manifesting freedoms of religion or belief, speech, association, or assembly. In addition, several prominent religious leaders have been detained, often on reportedly dubious criminal charges, such as rape and other sexual violence, or financial crimes. The crackdown against religious believers was authorized at the highest levels of the government, according to reportedly official documents obtained by human rights non-governmental organizations.
In December 2001, for the first time since the adoption of the 1999 ¡°evil cult¡± law, a Protestant Christian pastor was sentenced to death. Pastor Gong Shengliang of the underground ¡°South China Church¡± was sentenced to death for founding an ¡°evil cult¡±; he was also sentenced on the reportedly questionable charges of assault and sexual violence. More than 200 members of the South China Church were arrested at the same time as Pastor Gong. In July 2002, three priests affiliated with the underground Roman Catholic Church were reportedly sentenced to three years in a labor camp after having been convicted of engaging in ¡°cult¡± activities. In February 2002, the Vatican released the names of 33 bishops and priests it claimed to be in detention or under strict police surveillance.
Since October 2001, the political crackdown has intensified in the province of Xinjiang, where dozens of Muslim clerics and students were reportedly detained or arrested for ¡°illegal¡± religious activities. It was also reported that in early November 2001, police closed down 13 ¡°illegal religious centers¡± and arrested more than 50 people worshiping there. In December 2001, nine Muslims were arrested for ¡°illegal preaching.¡± In March 2002, authorities reportedly arrested scores of Muslims for ¡°separatism¡± and illegal religious activities.
The Chinese government retains tight control over religious activity and places of worship in Tibet. Hundreds of Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns remain in prison and are reportedly subject to torture and other extreme forms of punishment, while others have been executed without due process. Tibetan monks and nuns are required to undergo ¡°patriotic education,¡± and monks are forced to renounce their spiritual leaders, the Dalai Lama and the Dalai Lama-recognized Panchen Lama. The Chinese government has denied repeated requests, including from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, for access to the 12-year-old boy whom the Dalai Lama recognizes as the 11th Panchen Lama. Government officials have stated that he is being ¡°held for his own safety,¡± while at the same time insisting that another boy is the true Panchen Lama. On a positive note, on March 31, 2002, the Chinese government released Tanag Jigme Zangpo, the longest-serving Tibetan political prisoner (nearly 40 years), which followed the release of five other Tibetan political prisoners. In January 2003, the Chinese government executed Lobsang Dondrup, a Tibetan man, for his alleged involvement in an April 2002 bombing incident, despite reassurances given the previous month to U.S. officials attending the bilateral human rights dialogue that his case, as well as that of a Tibetan Buddhist monk also sentenced to death, would be reviewed.
The Chinese government has also continued its brutal crackdown against the Falun Gong movement and its followers. According to Falun Gong practitioners in the United States, in the last three years, over 100,000 practitioners have been sent to labor camps without trial, over 1,000 have been tortured in mental hospitals, and from that group, 430 have been killed as a result of police brutality. The Chinese government¡¯s crackdown against Falun Gong has apparently extended beyond its own borders. Many elected local U.S. officials also stated that they had received warnings from Chinese diplomatic personnel in the United States to withdraw their support of Falun Gong and its practitioners. On August 9, 2002, the Cambodian government, under pressure from the Chinese Embassy in Cambodia, deported two Chinese practitioners who had been designated as refugees by the UN High Commission for Refugees. In 2003, the Chinese government sentenced Charles Li, a U.S. citizen and Falun Gong practitioner, to three years in prison for alleged interference with Chinese television broadcasts.
Recommendations from the Commission¡¯s 2002-2003 Reporting Cycle
Despite the Chinese government¡¯s signature on and/or ratification of several international human rights treaties, and its stated adherence to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it has continued to commit severe violations of freedom of religion and belief and to discriminate against individuals on the basis of their religion or belief. The widespread and serious abuses of the right to freedom of religion and belief in China are documented by the State Department, this Commission, and religious and other non-governmental organizations. In March 2003, the Secretary of State concluded for the fourth straight year that the Chinese government severely and systematically violates freedom of religion and belief, and named China as a ¡°country of particular concern¡± under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. There are numerous egregious violations against members of many of China¡¯s religious and spiritual communities, including Evangelical Christians, Roman Catholics, Tibetan Buddhists, Uighur Muslims, and other groups, such as the Falun Gong, that the government has labeled ¡°evil cults.¡±
In order to protect freedom of thought, conscience, religion, and belief, the Chinese government must take effective steps in the following four critical areas. U.S. policy should encourage such steps and effectively respond to whether or not such steps are indeed taken.
(I) Ending the Crackdown: The Chinese government should end the abusive practices that constitute its current crackdown on religious and spiritual groups throughout China.
(II) Reforming the Repressive Legal Framework: The Chinese government should substantially change its system of laws, policies, and practices that govern religious and spiritual organizations and activities. It should establish an effective mechanism of accountability for alleged violations of the right to freedom of religion and belief and the human rights of religious believers, and for related abuses.
(III) Affirming the Universality of Religious Freedom and China¡¯s International Obligations: The Chinese government should fully respect the universality of the right to freedom of religion and belief along with other human rights. The Chinese government should also ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The U.S. government should undertake to strengthen scrutiny by international and U.S. bodies of China¡¯s human rights practices and the implementation of its international obligations.
(IV) Fostering a Culture of Respect for Human Rights: In light of its international obligations to ensure and protect human rights, the Chinese government should take steps to initiate and foster a culture of respect for human rights in China. The Chinese government can be assisted and motivated in this effort through U.S. government action in the areas of foreign assistance, public diplomacy, securities disclosure requirements, business practices, as well as other avenues.
I. Ending the Crackdown
1. The U.S. government should urge the Chinese government to:
1.a. halt the harassment, surveillance, arrest, and detention of persons on account of their manifestation of religion or belief;
1.b. end abusive practices such as detention, torture, and ill-treatment in prisons, labor camps, psychiatric facilities, and other places of confinement against such persons;
1.c. cease practices that coerce individuals to renounce or condemn any religion or belief;
1.d. cease discrimination against individuals on the basis of their religion or belief, which currently exists in the areas of government benefits, including education, employment, and health care; and
1.e. provide access to religious persons (including those imprisoned, detained, or under house arrest or surveillance) in all regions of China (including Tibet and Xinjiang) by foreign diplomats, humanitarian organizations, and international human
rights and religious organizations, as well as the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
2. The President of the United States should ensure that efforts to promote religious freedom in China are integrated into the mechanisms of dialogue and cooperation with the Chinese government at all levels, across all departments of the U.S. government, and on all issues, including security and counter-terrorism.
3. Prior to any state visit by the respective heads of state of the United States and the People¡¯s Republic of China, the President of the United States should obtain assurances that: (a) freedom of religion and belief will be included as a prominent agenda item for his discussions; and (b) he be given an opportunity to address the Chinese people directly by live, uncensored broadcast of a major speech on fundamental human rights and freedoms, particularly freedom of religion and belief.
4. During any state visit to China, the President of the United States should take further steps to promote religious freedom in his activities and those of the delegation. The Commission should be invited to designate representatives to participate in the delegation.
5. The U.S. government should consistently raise with the Chinese government at the highest levels individual cases of violations of the right to freedom of religion and belief.
6. The U.S. government should instruct the U.S. Embassy in Beijing and U.S. consulates in China to continue to monitor the status of individuals who are arrested or detained in violation of their human rights.
7. In its reporting on conditions of religious freedom in China, the State
7.a. articulate regional and local variations in the protection of the right to freedom of religion and belief;
7.b. identify specific individuals and/or entities that commit violations of this right; and
7.c. consider the record of provincial and local officials in protecting freedom of religion and belief when deciding whether to deepen cultural and economic cooperation between the United States and China.
II. Reforming the Repressive Legal Framework
8. The U.S. government should urge the Chinese government to respect and fully implement the freedom of individuals and organizations to engage in religious activities outside of state control and free from government interference, in accordance with international human rights standards. This freedom must not be limited to the five state-sanctioned religious groups, but encompass all groups that are engaged in the manifestation of religion or belief. This freedom includes, inter alia, as affirmed in the international instruments to which the Chinese government is a party, the right:
8.a. to worship publicly;
8.b. to express and advocate religious beliefs;
8.c. to distribute religious literature;
8.d. (for parents) to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions;
8.e. (for religious groups) to govern themselves according to their own rules, including:
8.e.1. to select and train their leaders;
8.e.2. to define and teach the beliefs and doctrines to which they adhere;
8.e.3. to solicit and receive voluntary financial and other contributions;
8.e.4. to establish and maintain associations for religious and spiritual purposes; and
8.e.5. to establish freely and maintain communications with individuals and communities ¨C both inside and outside China ¨C in matters of religion and belief.
9. The U.S. government should urge the Chinese government to establish a mechanism for reviewing cases of persons detained under suspicion of, or charged with, offenses relating to state security, disturbing social order, ¡°counterrevolutionary¡± or ¡°splittist¡± activities, or organizing or participating in ¡°illegal¡± gatherings or religious activities. This mechanism should also review cases of detained or imprisoned religious leaders (many of whom have been charged with specious criminal offenses).
10. The U.S. government should urge the Chinese government to drop charges against, and/or to release from imprisonment, detention, house arrest, or surveillance persons who are so restricted on account of their manifestation of religion or belief, as well as any others who, in contravention of international human rights standards, have been detained or sentenced unjustly.
11. The U.S. government should urge the Chinese government to allow both faith-based and secular non-governmental organizations formally to establish and maintain institutions to provide humanitarian and social services in China.
III. Affirming the Universality of Religious Freedom and China¡¯s International Obligations
12. The U.S. government should urge the Chinese government to:
12.a. reaffirm its commitment to the protection of the internationally recognized right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion, and belief;
12.b. ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and
12.c. abide by its international commitments and recognize as refugees North Koreans who have fled that country and who meet international criteria.
13. The U.S. government should take steps to ensure that the annual U.S.-China human rights dialogue involves high-level officials and, along with consideration of other human rights, serves as a forum to: (a) communicate U.S. concerns about the protection of freedom of religion and belief in China; (b) review the requirements of international human rights standards regarding the right to freedom of religion and belief; and
(c) establish measurable goals and practical steps for improvement.
14. Until China significantly improves its protection of freedom of religion and belief, the U.S. government should propose and promote a resolution to censure China at the annual meeting of the UN Commission on Human Rights and engage in sustained efforts to enlist the support of other governments at the highest levels to both vote for and advocate such a resolution.
15. The U.S. government, at the highest levels, should urge foreign governments and appropriate international entities (such as the European Union) to join the United States in a common policy that vigorously promotes freedom of religion and belief in China along with other human rights. The components of such a policy should include human rights monitoring and a dialogue with the Chinese government that incorporates specific benchmarks.
16. The U.S. government should endeavor to establish an official U.S. government presence, such as a consulate, in Lhasa, Tibet and Urumqi, Xinjiang, in order to monitor religious freedom and other human rights.
17. The U.S. Congress should continue to engage in and expand its ongoing review of human rights practices in China jointly with the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. The U.S. Congress should also extend an invitation to the Dalai Lama to address a Joint Meeting of Congress.
IV. Fostering a Culture of Respect for Human Rights
18. In its promotion of religious freedom, the U.S. government should resolutely oppose other human rights violations in China that are closely connected to violations of religious freedom. Such violations include, among others: torture; unlawful arrest or detention; arbitrary executions; absence of due process and discriminatory treatment under the criminal procedure code (including the lack of access to family members, human rights monitors, adequate medical care, and a lawyer); and violations of the rights of freedom of expression (including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information), freedom of association, and peaceful assembly.
19. The U.S. government should, through its foreign assistance, visitor exchanges, and other public diplomacy programs, expand its efforts to promote and protect human rights, including freedom of religion and belief, in China through supporting and, as appropriate, funding:
19.a. individuals and organizations in China that are advocating respect for China¡¯s international human rights obligations, including freedom of religion and belief;
19.b. exchanges between Chinese (including Tibetan and other ethnic minorities) and U.S. scholars, experts, representatives of religious communities and non-governmental organizations, and appropriate officials (both at the central and local levels) regarding the relationship between religion and the state, the role of religion in society, international standards relating to the right to freedom of religion and belief, and the importance and benefits of upholding human rights protection, including religious freedom; and
19.c. the efforts of those both inside and outside China to promote the rule of law, legal reform, and democracy in China.
20. The U.S. government should seek expanded opportunities to speak frankly and directly to the Chinese people to express why the U.S. government, on behalf of the American people, is concerned with violations of internationally recognized human rights, including freedom of religion or belief.
21. The U.S. government should prohibit U.S. companies doing business in China from engaging in practices that would constitute or facilitate violations of religious freedom or discrimination on the basis of religion or belief.
22. The United States should require any U.S. or foreign issuer of securities that is doing business in China to disclose in any registration statement filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for any new offering of securities the following information:
22.a. the nature and extent of the business that it and its affiliates are conducting, including any plan for expansion or diversification and any business relationship with agencies or instrumentalities of the Chinese government, and specifying the identity of such agencies or instrumentalities;
22.b. whether it plans to use the proceeds of the sale of the securities in connection with its business in China and, if so, how; and
22.c. all significant risk factors associated with doing business in China, including, but not limited to: political, economic, and social conditions inside China, including the policies and practices of the Chinese government with respect to religious freedom; the extent to which the business of the issuer and its affiliates directly or indirectly supports or facilitates those policies and practices; and the potential for and likely impact of a campaign by U.S. persons based on human rights concerns to prevent the purchase or retention of securities of the issuer, including a divestment campaign or shareholder lawsuit.
The United States should require any issuer that is doing business in China to disclose the information specified in items (a) and (c) above in its filings with the SEC, including its annual proxy statement or annual report, in the case of a U.S. issuer, or its U.S. markets annual report, in the case of a foreign issuer.
23. The U.S. government should raise the profile of the conditions of Uighur Muslims by addressing religious freedom and human rights concerns in bilateral talks, by increasing the number of educational opportunities in the United States available to Uighurs, and by increasing radio broadcasts in the Uighur language."