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How the US can protect human rights in China

Banner chinese officers patrolling tiananmen square may 2013 china  credit alexandre kuma via flickr cc by nc sa 20 cna

Chinese officers patrolling Tiananmen Square May 2013 in China (Credit: Alexandre Kuma via Flickr/CC)

The Trump administration should act to address “severe violations of religious freedom” in China, a bipartisan congressional commission said Thursday.

“Efforts to shutter and harass Protestant Christian ‘house churches’ and the demolition of renowned Tibetan Buddhist institutes of learning, Larung Gar and Yachen Gar, are particularly concerning developments,” the committee chairmen said in an Oct. 5 letter to US President Donald Trump.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) chairs the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. Rep. Christopher Smith (R-N.J.) co-chairs the commission, which includes senior-level officials of the executive branch, U.S. Senators and U.S. Representatives. The commission issued its annual report on human rights issues in China on Thursday.

“Nothing good happens in the dark,” Smith said in a statement on the report’s release. “That is why the Administration should shine a light on the Chinese government’s failures to abide by universal standards, shine a light on the cases of tortured and abused political prisoners, shine a light on China’s unfair trade practices and still coercive population control policies.”

“Chinese authorities are ruthlessly targeting human rights lawyers and advocates; clamping down on foreign NGOs, media outlets and Internet companies; restricting religious freedom particularly in ethnic minority Tibetan and Uyghur areas and forcibly repatriating North Korean refugees to near certain persecution and even death,” Rubio added.

The report urged the U.S. government to make diplomacy for religious freedom a priority. Countries that severely restrict religious freedom are likely to face domestic instability and could threaten regional stability, it noted.

The commission said its report documents “the Chinese government and Communist Party’s continued efforts to silence dissent, criminalize activities of human rights lawyers, control civil society, suppress religious activity, and restrict the operations of foreign media outlets, businesses, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) over the past 12 months”

“Chinese authorities continued to implement a ‘‘universal two- child policy’’ and persisted in actively promoting coercive population control policies that violate international standards,” the report charges. “Tellingly, the family planning bureaucratic apparatus remains intact. The Chinese government’s population control policies have contributed to the country’s demographic challenges, including a rapidly aging population and shrinking workforce that threaten to further slow China’s economic growth.”

The report notes the “missing girls” problem reportedly caused by sex-selective abortion and recommended the consideration of an appointment of a special advisor at the U.S. State Department to address the social and economic issues created by the Chinese government’s population control program. It recommended projects “that protect women and their families from the most coercive aspects of the population control policies.” Congress should continue to link U.S. contributions to the U.N. Population Fund for use in China with “the end of all birth limitation and coercive population control policies in China.”

With China designated a “country of particular concern” because of its restrictions on religious freedom, the Trump administration should “strategically employ the sanctions and other tools” associated with that designation to bolster religious freedom protection in China, the report said. Further, the administration should re-establish a working group of experts from government, universities, religious groups, and other NGOs “to develop an effective multiyear plan to promote and protect religious freedom in China.”

The commission urged “the Administration to develop an action plan that will facilitate interagency coordination on human rights,” noting that “that the desire for freedom, justice, and democratic openness are not alien to China or its people.”

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