China’s oppression of religion focus of USCIRF 2019 report

China’s oppression of religion focus of USCIRF 2019 report

With its particular focus on China’s oppression of religious and human rights, an independent watchdog group has decried the state of religious freedom across the globe in its annual report.

‘Manifold suffering’

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), a bipartisan organization created 20 years ago, concluded in its April 29 report that “innumerable believers and nonbelievers across the globe continued in 2018 to experience manifold suffering due to their beliefs.”

The commission cites dozens of countries in its 234-page report, but especially notes China’s repression of a range of religious beliefs — including Tibetan Buddhists, Christians, Falun Gong practitioners, Uighur Muslims and human rights defenders.

While the State Department’s annual international religious freedom report covers every nation in the world other than the U.S., USCIRF annually documents fewer than 30 countries that have the most significant religious freedom violations.

USCIRF recommends the State Department redesignate the following 10 countries as “countries of particular concern” (CPCs): Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. The State Department designated these countries as CPCs in November.

USCIRF thinks six additional countries should be cited as CPCs: Central African Republic, Nigeria, Russia, Syria, Uzbekistan and Vietnam. The commission adds it has given 12 other nations its Tier 2 designation for the next most serious level of religious freedom violations: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Cuba, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Laos, Malaysia and Turkey.

Most egregious

In addition, the commission is calling on the State Department to list five nonstate actors, or organizations outside a government’s control, as “entities of particular concern”: the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the Taliban in Afghanistan, al-Shabab in Somalia, Houthis in Yemen; and Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham in Syria.

China, along with Russia and Sudan, has been a focus of the watchdog group since 1999 as it prepared its first annual report.

Two decades later it notes that Uighur Muslims, in particular, remain severely repressed by Chinese officials.

At a Capitol Hill news conference announcing the report USCIRF Commissioner Gary Bauer said China has been listed by the commission as one of the most egregious “Tier 1” countries for religious freedom in each of its 20 reports.

“If we were to rate the Tier 1 countries China would be in a category all by itself,” said Bauer, president of American Values, a public policy think tank. “The level of persecution — they are an equal opportunity persecutor. They go after anybody, any sect that might compete with the communist, atheistic government of China.”

Other countries beyond China are also highlighted, including Vietnam, Sudan and Tajikistan, which the report says are suppressing religious freedom and permitting persecution. 

‘Growing trend’

The commission cites Eritrea and Russia along with China as examples of countries that brand religious minorities as “extremists.”

The report, issued after recent attacks on mosques in New Zealand and churches in Sri Lanka, also calls for the administration to set aside money for the department of State and Defense “to train and equip local officials and communities to protect places of worship and other holy sites, especially in countries where such sites face a high risk of attack.”

“That recommendation pre-existed these most recent attacks,” said USCIRF Commissioner Tony Perkins, “because we see this as a growing trend.”

See the full 2019 report at