WASHINGTON – China’s “utterly disgraceful” human rights record is not just bad, it’s getting worse every year, a new Congressional report has warned.
“The Chinese government’s human rights record is utterly disgraceful, continuing a downward trend over the past three years,” Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), chair of the bipartisan Congressional Executive Committee on China, which published the report, stated on Thursday.
“The Chinese government took extraordinary and unprecedented steps last year to decimate the ranks of human rights lawyers, crush independent civil society and religious groups, and expanded controls over the Internet and the press.”
The Congressional-Executive Commission on China released its 15th annual report on China on Thursday. Created in 2000 by the U.S.-China Relations Act, the commission “is mandated to monitor human rights and rule of law developments in China,” the report stated read more…
The U.S. Department of State submitted the 2015 International Religious Freedom Report to the United States Congress on August 10, 2016.
Now in its 18th year, this congressionally-mandated Report comprises almost 200 distinct reports on countries and territories worldwide and continues to reflect the United States’ commitment to, and advancement of, the right of every person to freedom of religion or belief.
The 2015 Report notes a continuing trend of some governments enforcing strict laws against blasphemy, apostasy, and conversion from the majority religion, or restricting religious liberty under the guise of combatting violent extremism. Many non-state actors, including terrorists, continued their assault on religious and ethnic minorities.
The Report also notes the positive actions of civil society and other governments around the world to provide greater protections for religious minorities and to safeguard the fundamental freedom of individuals to believe, or not believe – according to their own conscience, and to manifest their religion or belief in worship, practice, observance, and teaching.
Since 2013, provincial authorities in Zhejiang,China have ordered the demolition of several state-sanctioned Protestant and Catholic churches and the removal of over 1,500 crosses as part of a government campaign targeting so-called “illegal” structures. Lawyers and religious leaders protesting the campaign face detention and arrest. In August 2015, Chinese authorities seized human rights lawyer Zhang Kai just prior to a scheduled meeting with the U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom. Zhang Kai had been providing legal counsel to church communities affected by a government-led campaign to demolish “illegal” churches and crosses. He was finally released in March 2016, but the U.S. government remains concerned about his well-being.
The exercise of religious freedom continued to be nearly non-existent inNorth Korea. In 2015, the United States co-sponsored annual resolutions adopted by the UN General Assembly and Human Rights Council that condemn the country’s “systematic, widespread, and gross human rights violations.” The resolutions further expressed their grave concern over the DPRK’s denial of the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, as well as of the rights to freedom of opinion, expression, and association, and urged the government to take immediate steps to ensure these rights.
In 2014, Brunei implemented Phase 1 of a Sharia Penal Code (SPC), which expanded existing restrictions on minor religious offenses such as eating during Ramadan, cross-dressing, and close proximity between unmarried people of different genders. Phase 2 and Phase 3 are scheduled for implementation in 2017 and 2018. Phase 2 includes corporal punishments such as amputation for theft, and Phase 3 includes stoning to death for apostasy.
In Burma (Myanmar), between May and August, 2015, the previous military-led government adopted a package of four laws related explicitly to “protection of race and religion” that, if enforced, will infringe on the exercise of religious freedom and other human rights. These laws, which appear to target members of the country’s Muslim minority, were championed by prominent Buddhist leaders. The new government has not taken any steps to reverse these laws.
The Vietnamese Committee for Religious Affairs released a draft of the “Law on Religion and Belief” for public comment in April 2015. Despite representations by Vietnamese officials that the new law would begin to bring the country into compliance with its international obligations, the draft law appeared to make only minimal changes to the deeply problematic current regulations on religion. Several representatives of religious communities have asserted that a “bad” draft law would be worse than keeping the current, less formal patchwork of regulations. Others have argued the draft law, while imperfect, will legally “lock in” certain limited rights, such as the right of religious groups to rent property, hold events, or ordain clergy. Subsequent drafts have made some encouraging improvements, but many concerning issues remain unaddressed.