The communist regime in China is waging another “Cultural Revolution” and this time, it has worldwide implications, said Nury Turkel, a commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).
“What is happening in China today, with respect to religious ethnic minorities, with this repressive environment … is literally a Cultural Revolution on steroids,” Turkel said in a recent interview on The Epoch Times’ “American Thought Leaders” program.
Turkel is no stranger to the Cultural Revolution—he was born in a Chinese re-education camp where his mother was imprisoned at the height of the violent mass movement that started in 1966. The 10-year-long movement, which destroyed the cultural heritage and traditions of the country, resulted in millions of deaths.
“Whatever is happening to religious ethnic minorities in China—[it’s] no longer about their human rights, their religious freedom—this is about us as a free society,” said Turkel. “How to prevent this is becoming [a] new normal in the world, this will create much bigger problems for us to handle and down the road.”
Victims of the Chinese regime’s ongoing human rights violations now include Catholics, Falun Gong adherents, house Christians, Muslim minorities, and Tibetans. In China’s far-western region of Xinjiang, which is home to about 11 million Uyghurs, at least 1 million Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and Kyrgyz have been detained in internment camps for political indoctrination.
In January, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has committed “genocide” and “crimes against humanity” against Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang.
War on Faith
Turkel, an Uyghur American attorney, said the Chinese regime has been waging a war on faith; it’s the CCP’s ideologies that are driving its assaults on religions.
“Believing in any religion, or having a spiritual life is considered as a potential threat or a sign of disloyalty,” Turkel said. “So instead of worshiping God, when you go to the places of worship, you worship Xi Jinping, you study Xi Jinping thought.”
Under Xi, the current CCP leader, Chinese authorities have demolished churches, removed crosses, arrested pastors, and ordered the removal of Christian images, including pictures of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary, to be replaced with portraits of Xi or Mao Zedong.
“They are engaging in human reengineering with this terminology that they’ve been widely using: thought transformation, in a way of saying that we’re cleansing somebody’s religious belief out of their mind, or that [of] their soul, and replacing it with communism, and Xi Jinping thought,” Turkel added.
Turkel applauded Pompeo’s genocide designation, calling it “one of the most significant policy responses by the U.S. government.” He also welcomed the numerous U.S. sanctions against Chinese officials and entities—including Chen Quanguo, a member of the CCP’s powerful Politburo—for their roles in human rights abuses in Xinjiang.
China’s continued state-sanctioned practice of harvesting organs from prisoners of conscience is simply beyond words for Turkel.
“This is one of the instances that I cannot come up with a proper word to express how outrageous, how inhuman this is, that the Chinese government [is] using the organs of prisoners of conscience for profit,” Turkel said.
He recalled seeing a promotional video from a hospital in China’s capital Beijing, marketing its organ transplant service. The video contained people speaking in Arabic. He questioned where the hospital was getting its organs.
China is one of the top destinations for transplant tourism, and Beijing has promoted its narratives—how it has stopped sourcing organs from executed prisoners since 2015 and organs are sourced from voluntary donations—in U.S. newspapers.
However, Beijing’s claim was refuted by a 2019 report by a London-based people’s tribunal. The report concluded, after a year-long investigation, that the stated-sanctioned practice of forced organ harvesting was happening on a “significant scale” in China, with Falun Gong practitioners being the main source of organs.
Turkel applauded the recently introduced legislation in both chambers of Congress to seek accountability for China’s organ harvesting. If enacted, the proposal would allow the U.S. government to impose sanctions on individuals and government officials responsible for organ trafficking or organ harvesting.
Turkel said the international community must realize that the CCP is “a threat to Western civilization.” As for policymakers around the world, they must understand the threat in order to have an effective foreign policy dealing with Beijing.
“If you don’t recognize the danger that the CCP is posing, to the stability of civil rights, human rights, [and] religious freedom around the world, you will not be able to formulate an effective foreign policy to tackle [the] CCP threat,” Turkel said.
More importantly, Turkel said, China is exporting its “draconian surveillance system” to the countries, and that should be concerning.
Sheena Greitens, an associate professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, told a USCIRF hearing in July 2020 that China had exported surveillance technology platforms to 80 countries around the world, based on her research.
Most of these countries (pdf) were located in South America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, according to Greitens. The number of countries has risen sharply since 2014, when there were about 20 countries using China’s surveillance technology that year.
“Imagine that the Chinese way of surveilling its own population becomes [a] new normal. What does it mean for democracy? What does it mean for civil liberties? What does it mean for religious freedom around the world?” Turkel said.
Turkel compared the CCP to the Stasi, the infamous East German secret police.
“When you talk about [China’s] surveillance, this is East German Stasi with artificial intelligence [and] preemptive policing capabilities.
“If it’s not taken seriously, if it’s not stopped, this will become a much more serious problem for religious minorities around the world that many oppressive governments, authoritarian regimes, [and] dictatorships have already been using their own means and tools to suppress.”