US religion freedom commission seeks targeted sanctions against China’s rights violators

The Id Kah mosque in China’s Xinjiang region. Rights advocates say the mass detentions in Xinjiang are the worst collective human rights abuse in China in decades. (Photo courtesy: Johannes Eisele/Agence France-Presse)

(, Apr29’20) – A bipartisan US federal commission has on Apr 28 called for sanctions against individuals and entities deemed responsible for the persecution of Muslims in Chinese-ruled Xinjiang and for the country to be placed on a State Department blacklist of the world’s worst abusers of religious freedoms. Releasing its 2020 Annual Report, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) also called on Congress to pass a new bill that will promote religious freedom in Tibet and penalize the Chinese leadership for interfering in the Dalai Lama reincarnation recognition process.

The USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the US Congress to monitor, analyze and report on threats to freedom of religion or belief abroad. It makes policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and Congress with intend to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion or belief.

President Donald Trump’s administration should “impose targeted sanctions on Chinese government agencies and officials responsible for severe violations of religious freedom—particularly Xinjiang Communist Party Secretary Chen Quanguo and former Political and Legal Affairs Commission Chief Zhu Hailun,” the report said.

The report called for a freeze on the officials’ assets and a bar on their entry into the United States “under human rights related financial and visa authorities, citing specific religious freedom violations.”

On Tibet, the report noted that in 2019, the Chinese government “continued to pursue a strategy of forced assimilation and suppression of Tibetan Buddhism,” in particular through laws designed to control the next reincarnation of exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and those of other Tibetan eminent lamas.

It referred to the demolition in the summer of 2019 of thousands of residences at the Yachen Gar Tibetan Buddhist center and the cessation of new enrollment in Apr 2019 in the Larung Gar Buddhist Academy, both in Sichuan Province.

The report took note of the fact that repressive Chinese government policies had led to at least 156 Tibetans carrying out self-immolation protests since Feb 2009.

USCIRF commissioner Tenzin Dorjee has called China “the classic example of a ‘country of particular concern,’ or CPC, when it comes to religious freedom violations.”

“Millions of Uighurs are kept in concentration camps and according to the latest Freedom House Report, Tibet is second only to Syria in terms of religious freedom and human rights violations,” he was quoted as saying.

He has called for “serious multilateral government and global policy actions to end ‘systematic, ongoing, and egregious’ religious freedom and human rights violations in China, including in Tibet and Xinjiang.”

Speaking to the Tibetan Service of Radio Free Asia (RFA)’s Tibetan Service Apr 28, US Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback has called for an end to “these systematic violations of religious freedom in Xinjiang, in Tibet, to the house church, to Falun Gong members, that are taking place throughout China.”

Referring to the surveillance-state-repression which is “a feature of Chen Quanguo,” Brownback has said, “He’s done it in Tibet, he’s doing it in Xinjiang, and it needs to stop … China’s been at war with faith now and certainly in recent years that war has intensified. They will not win this war against their own people’s faith.”

The report recommends 14 countries to the State Department for designation as CPCs because their governments engage in or tolerate “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations.” These included nine that the State Department designated as CPCs in Dec 2019—Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan—as well as five others—India, Nigeria, Russia, Syria, and Vietnam.

But two members, Gary L Bauer and Tenzin Dorjee, have said that they had dissented from the decision made by fellow commissioners to designate India as a cpc.

“India is not the equivalent of communist China, which wages war on all faiths; nor of North Korea, a prison masquerading as a country; nor of Iran, whose Islamic extremist leaders regularly threaten to unleash a second Holocaust,” Bauer wrote in his analysis.

“India does not belong to the same category as authoritarian regimes like China and North Korea. India is the largest democratic nation in the world, where the CAA has been challenged openly by the opposition Congress Party and law makers, civil society, and various groups,” said Dorjee, an ethnic Tibetan who has previously said he has ‘experienced full religious freedom in India as vulnerable minority’.

CAA, or Constitution Amendment Act, seeks to give Indian citizenship to certain named religiously persecuted minorities in some Muslim-dominated neighbouring countries that does not include Muslims and protesters have called it anti-Muslim.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here