US Religious Freedom Chief: China Sanctions Won’t Silence Her Panel

March 30, 2021 Updated: March 31, 2021

The Chinese regime’s sanctions against the chair and vice chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) won’t end criticism of Beijing’s oppression of millions of Uyghur Muslims, the commission’s top official says.

“The Chinese government’s baseless sanctions on U.S. and foreign government officials who advocate for human rights and religious freedom in China are an attempt to silence growing international criticism and scrutiny of its genocidal policies against Uyghur and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang,” USCIRF Chair Gayle Manchin said in a March 29 statement. Xinjiang is a region in northwest China.

“This tactic will not work. USCIRF will not be silenced. We will not stop speaking out against the Chinese government’s ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity,” added Manchin, who is the wife of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).

Manchin was referring to sanctions announced by the Chinese regime last week against her and USCIRF Vice Chairman Tony Perkins, as well as other U.S. and Canadian officials.

The sanctions bar the designated individuals from traveling to the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong, and Macau, and make it illegal for Chinese firms to have any kind of relations with them or the entities they represent.

“The Chinese Communist Party government’s baseless sanctions are tactics of intimidation revealing the communist regime is trying to save face in the international community, which has denounced their brutal and repressive policies toward their own people,” Perkins said in the statement.

“We call on the international community, especially U.S. allies who share the same fundamental universal values and principles of freedom of religion or belief and the rule of law, to redouble their efforts and unite in standing up to Communist China.”

Perkins also called for the United States and its allies to impose additional coordinated sanctions against officials in the Chinese regime for specific actions against the estimated 11 million Uyghur and other Turkic Muslims mostly living in Xinjiang.

Describing China’s forced labor camps and other repressive actions against the Muslim minorities as a “genocidal campaign,” Perkins also called on the international community to either move or boycott the 2022 Winter Olympic Games that are scheduled for Beijing.

The targeting of Manchin and Perkins by Beijing followed a March 10 USCIRF hearing that focused on U.S. companies profiting from or otherwise making use of forced labor by Uyghurs.

“It is a practical impossibility for a U.S. corporation to source from the Uyghur region without using forced labor, which means that every corporation that has chosen to stay in the Uyghur region is complicit in the crime of forced labor,” Scott Nova, executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), told the USCIRF hearing.

The Uyghur region produces an estimated 20 percent of the world’s cotton production, according to witnesses during the hearing, as well as nearly half of the polysilicon used in solar panels. The region also produces vast quantities of tomatoes and tomato-based products, much of which are bought and imported to the United States by domestic firms.

“From Target to Walmart, from lululemon to Uniqlo, from Amazon to Zara, the supply chain of virtually every branded retailer that sells cotton garments runs through the Uyghur region,” Nova said.

Under President Donald Trump, the USCIRF warned in June 2020 that China’s forced sterilization of Uyghurs amounted to evidence of systematic genocide.

Perkins and Manchin swapped titles after Jan. 20, when former Vice President Joe Biden was inaugurated as Trump’s successor in the White House.

The religious freedom panel also issued a March 23 statement in support of sanctions by the United States and other countries against Chinese officials Wang Junzheng, secretary of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), and Chen Mingguo, director of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau (XPSB), under the Global Magnitsky Act for committing egregious religious freedom violations against Uyghurs and other Muslims residing in the region.

Congressional correspondent Mark Tapscott may be reached at