U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Report: U.S. Urged to Encourage China to Improve Rights Practices

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom's (USCIRF) 2002 annual report on China declares that the Chinese government has "continued to commit severe violations of freedom of religion and belief and to discriminate against individuals on the basis of their religion or belief."

In response, the Commission recommends that U.S. policy in general should encourage the Chinese government to: end its current abusive crackdown on religious and spiritual groups in China; substantially reform its repressive system of laws, policies, and practices that govern religious and spiritual organizations and activities; affirm the universality of religious freedom and ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and initiate and foster a culture of respect for human rights in China.

In particular, the Commission advises the President of the United States to:

-- ensure that efforts to promote religious freedom in China are integrated into the mechanisms of dialogue and cooperation with the Chinese government at all levels, across all departments of the U.S. government, and on all issues;

-- obtain assurances that freedom of religion and belief will be included as a prominent agenda item for presidential discussions, prior to any state visit by himself to China, or of the president of China to the United States;

-- take further steps to promote religious freedom in his activities during any state visit to China (e.g. address the Chinese people directly by live, uncensored broadcast of a major speech on human rights);

-- invite the Commission and the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom to participate in any presidential delegation to China;

-- personally express his support for a renewed U.S.-China human rights dialogue; and

-- invite Chinese officials, religious leaders, scholars, and others concerned with religious freedom to visit the United States and seek opportunities for American counterparts to visit China.

The Commission also recommends that the Department of State should:

-- expand efforts to monitor the status of individuals who have been arrested or detained in China in violation of their human rights;

-- articulate regional and local variations in the protection of the right to freedom of religion and belief, and identify specific individuals and/or entities that commit violations of this right in State Department reporting on conditions of religious freedom in China; and

-- consider the record of provincial and local officials in protecting freedom of religion and belief when deciding whether to deepen cultural and economic cooperation between the United States and China.

In addition, the Commission urges the U.S. government to, among other things:

-- endeavor to establish an official U.S. government presence, such as a consulate, in Lhasa, Tibet and Urumqi, Xinjiang, in order to monitor religious freedom and other human rights;

-- expand its efforts to promote and protect human rights, including freedom of religion and belief, in China through foreign assistance, visitor exchanges, and other public diplomacy programs;

-- require any U.S. or foreign issuer of securities that is doing business in China to disclose certain information in any registration statement filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for any new offering of securities; and

-- raise the profile of the conditions of Uighur Muslims by addressing religious freedom and human rights concerns in bilateral talks, by increasing the number of educational opportunities in the United States available to Uighurs, and by increasing radio broadcasts in the Uighur language.

Although the Chinese government claims that members of China's Muslim Uighur minority are associated with international terrorism, the report explains, the U.S. government has stressed that combating international terrorism is not an excuse for suppressing legitimate political expression or religious freedom.

"The deteriorating conditions of the human rights, including religious freedom, of Uighur Muslims over the last year, especially since the attacks in the U.S. of September 11, makes it particularly important for the U.S. government to document these abuses and raise concerns about them with the Chinese government," the Commission report states.


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