China’s ruling regime continues to be “one of the worst abusers of human rights and religious freedom in the world,” a senior State Department official said as the department releases its annual report on international religious freedom.
“They continue to engage in genocide and crimes against humanity against Uyghurs. They’re also continuing their repression of Tibetan Buddhists, Protestants, Catholics, Falun Gong, and Hui Muslims,” the official told reporters in a briefing on May 15 morning, adding that the State Department has a number of tools, such as financial sanctions, visa restrictions, and collaboration with international allies around the world in response to the regime’s treatment of religious minorities.
“We continue to see the situation worsening, and we’ll continue to use all the tools that I described to do everything that we can to help the people of China as they face repression at the hands of the government.”
The report from Monday featured a string of stories of believers struggling to survive under the regime’s unceasing efforts to suppress their faith.
After holding up a sign reading “pray for the country,” Gao Heng of the Guangzhou Bible Reform Church was tried and sentenced on charges of “provoking trouble and picking quarrels” last February, the report said. Details of the sentence remain unclear.
In March 2022, authorities arrested Chen Wenshang in Hengyang city of Hunan Province in central China for preaching the gospel in public. He experienced such arrests six times in 2021.
The Human Rights Without Frontiers organization estimates that Chinese authorities imprisoned 2,649 individuals for exercising their freedom of belief, including more than 2,100 adherents of the spiritual practice Falun Gong, 23 Muslims, 40 Christians, and 20 Buddhists. Due to a lack of transparency over the religious persecution, some estimates go as high as 10,000 or more, the report noted.
Falun Gong, a meditation practice featuring the tenets of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance, had an estimated following of 70 million to 100 million by 1999, when the regime began a brutal campaign of persecution.
Minghui.org, a website gathering first-hand materials about the regime’s campaign, said a total of 172 adherents died of persecution, while 446 Falun Gong practitioners received sentencing varying from six months to 15 years due to their faith.
The State Department report cited the death of Falun Gong practitioner Ji Yunzhi, who was taken from her home, abused, and beaten in custody in February. Police force-fed her and repeatedly slapped her in the face after she went on a hunger strike to protest her treatment. She died seven weeks later in a hospital in Inner Mongolia. Police transferred her body to a crematorium against her family’s wishes.
Cui Jinshi, 88, was studying Falun Gong at home with six others when police broke in and arrested her. Hours later, her son learned that she had died in an emergency room. Her son, after seeing her body, said her throat had been cut, the report said.
Several other imprisoned adherents died in custody after police denied them medical parole.
“The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has mastered the art of religious persecution,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, citing Beijing’s “acts of genocide against Uyghurs and other ethnic groups.”
“In addition to its persistent harassment of Falun Gong practitioners, the CCP has recently implemented bans on domestically generated online religious content and prohibited overseas organizations from operating virtual religious information services in China,” he said in a statement after the State Department report’s release.
Responding to a question from The Epoch Times at a midday press briefing, Vedant Patel, principal deputy spokesperson for the State Department, said the United States remains “deeply concerned about human rights abuses taking place within the PRC [People’s Republic of China].”
“We continue to be clear-eyed about that,” he said. While he declined to preview any steps the U.S. government might take in the coming days, he stressed that “we have already taken a number of historic actions on human rights specifically to hold violators accountable.”
The United States was among the earliest nations to decline to send a diplomatic representation to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics over the regime’s ongoing human rights abuses.
On Dec. 9, 2022, the State Department sanctioned three current and former Chinese officials for human rights violations in Tibet and for arbitrary detention of Falun Gong adherents in megacity Chongqing, in China’s southwestern region.
“Human rights is something that we raise quite regularly in our bilateral engagements and we will continue to do so,” said Patel.
From The Epoch Times