Secretary of State Mike Pompeo led a group of U.S. officials in criticizing China’s continued human rights abuses on Oct. 27, which marks International Religious Freedom Day.
“Three of the world’s most egregious religious freedom abusers–the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Iran, and North Korea–have tightened their coercive measures to silence their own people,” Pompeo said in a statement.
“Worse, the PRC has sought to eradicate all forms of faith and belief that don’t align with Chinese Communist Party doctrine.”
The U.S. government designated Oct. 27 as International Religious Freedom Day to commemorate the signing of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, which ensures that promoting religious freedom is a priority of U.S. foreign policy.
Signed into law by former U.S. President Bill Clinton in October 1998, it established an independent, bipartisan federal commission known as the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), as well as the position of ambassador at large for international religious freedom, currently occupied by Sam Brownback.
Brownback took to Twitter to commemorate the occasion, saying that the freedom of religion enjoyed in the United States must be “promoted & protected around the world.”
The U.S. ambassador also singled out the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for launching “the most sophisticated surveillance and indoctrination system to repress religious freedom we’ve ever seen.”
The Chinese regime was recently named the worst abuser of digital freedom for the sixth consecutive year, in rights group Freedom House’s annual report.
Last week, Brownback highlighted China’s “war on faith” in an interview to mark Religious Freedom Day with ShareAmerica, a U.S. State Department platform for communicating American foreign policy.
“We share reports … that Chinese authorities have subjected prisoners of conscience, including Falun Gong, Uyghurs, Tibetan Buddhists and underground Christians, to forcible organ harvesting. This should shock everyone’s conscience,” Brownback said.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a meditation practice with moral teachings centered on the tenets of “truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance” that grew extremely popular in China during the 1990s. In July 1999, the Chinese regime deemed this a threat and launched a nationwide persecution campaign.
According to the Falun Dafa Information Center, millions have been detained inside prisons, labor camps, and other facilities, with hundreds of thousands tortured while incarcerated. There are more than 4,000 documented deaths as a result of persecution, though experts say the true figure is likely much higher.
A London-based people’s tribunal concluded in June 2019 that the state-sanctioned practice of forced organ harvesting was happening on a “significant scale” in China, with Falun Gong practitioners being the main source of organs.
During an October press briefing, State Department officials also raised concerns about the atrocity and urged those with information about such practices in China to come forward.
USCIRF’s chair Gayle Manchin applauded recent U.S. sanctions against Chinese and Iranian officials responsible for severe religious freedom violations.
“These sanctions send the strong message that the U.S. government is committed to ensuring accountability for violations of our most fundamental right,” she said in a statement to commemorate International Religious Freedom Day.
The U.S. government has sanctioned six Chinese officials and one CCP entity over human rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims in China’s far-western region of Xinjiang, where an estimated 1 million Uyghurs are being detained in internment camps.
U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia also spotlighted the CCP’s forced labor practices in a statement.
Religious and ethnic minorities are forced into state-sponsored labor and reeducation camps in China, he noted. A September Labor Department report ranked China first among 77 countries for the most goods produced by child labor and forced labor.
According to the report, U.S. authorities found that China produced 17 types of goods with forced labor, including Christmas decorations, electronics, footwear, garments, toys, gloves, and hair products.