CCP’s Suppression of Religious Freedom Highlighted at British Parliament Event

‘China is at war with faith. It is a war they will not win,’ Benedict Rogers said.
CCP’s Suppression of Religious Freedom Highlighted at British Parliament Event
Benedict Rogers, a British human rights activist, speaks at a rally commemorating the 20th anniversary of the persecution of Falun Gong in China, on the West lawn of Capitol Hill in Washington, on July 18, 2019. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)
5/20/2024
Updated:
5/20/2024
0:00

An event chaired by Britain’s special envoy for freedom of religion and belief shed light on the extensive suppression of religious and spiritual beliefs by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Conservative Party lawmaker Fiona Bruce chaired the May 15 event, held at the UK Parliament in London and featuring firsthand accounts and research about persecuted groups including Tibetans, Falun Gong practitioners, Uyghur Muslims, and Christians.

Benedict Rogers, co-founder of Hong Kong Watch, a UK-based rights advocacy group that co-organized the event with Tibet Watch, said that the CCP’s efforts to assimilate and control religions have spread to Hong Kong. The campaign to “transform” religions was started in 2015 by CCP leader Xi Jinping and involves aligning religion or spiritual beliefs to the Chinese communist ideology and, crucially, making believers loyal to the Party above any deity or moral principles.

A 2023 Hong Kong Watch report highlights that, unlike the sweeping campaigns in the mainland, the CCP is using “insidious” and “subtle” ways to suppress religious freedom in Hong Kong, including through the use of its “national security” law. The Beijing-impose law criminalizes anything the CCP considers secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with a foreign country. People found guilty of violating the law can face life in prison.
Several well-known clergymen in Hong Kong have been punished by the authorities in recent years. Cardinal Joseph Zen, a former head of the Catholic Church in Hong Kong, was arrested by police in May 2022 on suspicion of colluding with foreign forces. Although he hasn’t been charged under the national security law, the 91-year-old retired bishop was found guilty of failing to properly register a now-disbanded humanitarian fund that assists detained pro-democracy protesters. Cardinal Zen, along with five others charged in November 2022, has filed an appeal.
In May, Hong Kong enacted its own national security law, Article 23, which punishes actions the CCP deems as treason, sedition, and the theft of state secrets. It also allows trials to be held behind closed doors. Western governments have raised concerns about the legislation’s vague and broad provisions.

Mr. Rogers said the British government’s attitude toward the CCP’s rights abuses has “changed considerably.”

“The government itself is more receptive to discussing human rights in China, including freedom of religion, and to speaking out more than it used to,” Mr. Rogers told NTD, a sister media outlet of The Epoch Times, after the May 15 event.

However, he said more “concrete policy action” needs to be taken.

“The government increasingly says the right thing, but it isn’t doing what we like it to do,” he said.

‘Speak Up for Justice’

In a statement read out at the event, Gu Xingzhen, a Falun Gong practitioner who moved to the UK in 2023, gave an account of the repeated harassment and mental and physical abuse she endured over the past two decades simply for practicing her faith.

Ms. Gu was detained at least twice. In December 1999, shortly after a persecutory campaign against Falun Gong that began that July, Ms. Fu was arrested and held in custody for 15 days, during which she was repeatedly abused. The police forced her to stand in the same position for hours and shocked her with electric batons. They finally released her after her husband bribed officials within the local security bureau.

Since 1999, millions of Falun Gong practitioners have been thrown into forced labor camps, brainwashing centers, and jails across the country, where they were subjected to torture and abuse in an attempt to force them to recant their beliefs. A large but untold number of adherents are believed to have been tortured to death or even killed for their organs.

Ms. Gu called for an end to the brutal campaign against Falun Gong, a self-cultivation practice consisting of meditative exercises and moral teachings centered on the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance. It has been a prime target of the Chinese regime for the past 25 years.

“I hope the UK government and the international community can speak up for justice and call for an end to the persecution of Falun Gong as soon as possible,” she said in a statement read by her daughter at the event.

Falun Gong practitioners carry banners raising awareness about persecution in China during a march through the center of Warsaw, Poland, on Sept. 9, 2022. (Mihut Savu/The Epoch Times)
Falun Gong practitioners carry banners raising awareness about persecution in China during a march through the center of Warsaw, Poland, on Sept. 9, 2022. (Mihut Savu/The Epoch Times)

‘Religious Freedom Is Nonexistent’

Rahima Mahmut, director of the UK branch of the World Uyghur Congress, spoke at the event about the CCP’s repressive efforts against Uyghurs in the far western region of Xinjiang.
A wide range of reports and research that have emerged in recent years indicate that at least 1 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities have been incarcerated in internment camps in Xinjiang, where they have been subjected to torture, sexual violence, political indoctrination, and forced labor.
The United States and some Western governments have designated the CCP’s abuses in Xinjiang as genocide. A 2022 report by the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights determined that the CCP’s repression efforts against such groups may constitute crimes against humanity.
“Religious freedom is nonexistent in my homeland,” Ms. Mahmut said.
Uyghur activist and artist Rahima Mahmut attends a vigil outside the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office in London on Feb. 13, 2023. (Isabel infantes/AFP via Getty Images)
Uyghur activist and artist Rahima Mahmut attends a vigil outside the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office in London on Feb. 13, 2023. (Isabel infantes/AFP via Getty Images)

Tibet

Sonam Frasi, a representative of the Dalai Lama in Britain, pointed out that the event came just days before the 29th anniversary of the CCP’s abduction of the 11th Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima. The Panchen Lama is the second-highest position in Tibetan Buddhism.

The forced disappearance, which occurred in 1995 when the Panchen Lama was just 6 years old has been a source of ongoing concern. The U.S. government has repeatedly called on the regime to release the high-ranking monk, who turned 35 in April.

On May 17, the U.S. State Department renewed its appeals for the CCP to disclose his whereabouts and well-being.

“Gedhun Choekyi Nyima remains missing and has not appeared in public since that day,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement on May 17.

Mr. Miller voiced U.S. support for Tibetans’ human rights and their freedom to practice their religious belief.

“Tibetans, like members of all religious communities, should have the ability to select, educate, and venerate their own leaders, like the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama, according to their own beliefs and without government interference,” he said.

Eva Fu contributed to this report.