Religious Persecution in China


Shaped by our history as victims of oppression, we strive always to remember that we are commanded to "love the stranger as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt" (Leviticus 19:34). A central lesson of our history is the evil that results when people of good conscience stand by while others are persecuted because of their religious beliefs and practices. Throughout its history, the UAHC has spoken with vigor and clarity against religious persecution and for religious freedom in North America and everywhere else in the world. Today these issues are of major concern in the world's most populous nation, China.

Historically, minority groups have systematically been either assimilated or annihilated as a means for unifying China-a diverse country that currently has more than ninety minority groups. Today, the Han continues to pursue forced assimilation, and the Communist Party, fearful of economic and political change, has attempted to thwart efforts by individuals to organize outside the control of the government.

Religious minorities particularly have been targets. Religious and ethnic harassment and persecution have increased in the last two years. The U.S. State Department and human rights groups have documented instances of torture, wrongful imprisonment, and other inhumane treatment of minorities.

This crackdown by the Chinese government on ethnic and religious minorities, including Falun Gong members, Tibetan Buddhists, Muslims, and underground Protestant and Catholic churches, is in direct violation of the fundamental freedoms of religion, speech, and assembly as embodied in the UN Declaration on Human Rights. China's already shrill campaign to discredit the Falun Gong spiritual group has reached a new intensity, with the strongest accusations yet being that the group is colluding with Western forces seeking to vilify and destroy the nation. Despite widespread arrests and harassment of members, with thousands shipped to "reeducation through labor" camps, large numbers have continued practicing Falun Gong.

The Chinese legal system does not protect human rights from state interference, nor does it provide effective remedies for those who claim that their rights have been violated. Some have argued that only increased engagement can, in the long run, open China to the political and legal change that is indispensable to the expansion of fundamental freedoms, including religious freedom. Others respond that increased engagement and normalization must be dependent on improvements in China's human rights record, particularly religious freedom.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has called for the American government to become more actively involved in the issue of religious persecution in China and to document, respond to, and deter persecution.

There is also a need for Canadian and U.S. companies doing business in China to protect their workers' rights of free association and assembly by discouraging the presence of the military and the compulsory political indoctrination in the workplace. Bringing China into the world market-conditional upon its adherence to several human rights measures-will enhance transparency and advance human rights.

THEREFORE , the Union of American Hebrew Congregations resolves to:

  1. Call upon the government of the People's Republic of China to:
    1. End all persecution, including that of members of religious and ethnic minorities;
    2. Release from wrongful imprisonment Tibetan monks, Falun Gong practitioners, and other victims of religious and ethnic persecution;
    3. Allow individuals to pursue their personal and religious beliefs and practices freely; and
    4. Ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and abide by the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  2. Call upon the U.S. administration to call on the government of the People's Republic of China to implement the recommendations of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. We call on the government of China to:
    1. Establish a high-level and ongoing dialogue with the U.S. government on religious-freedom issues;
    2. Ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;
    3. Permit unhindered access to religious leaders, including those imprisoned, detained, or under house arrest, by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and respected international human rights organizations;
    4. Provide a detailed response to inquiries regarding a number of persons who are imprisoned, detained, or under house arrest for reasons of religion or belief or whose whereabouts are not known but who were last seen in the custody of Chinese authorities. The Department of State, after consultation with human rights and religious groups, should compile a detailed list of such prisoners of conscience and make specific inquiries to the Chinese government; and
    5. Release from prison all persons incarcerated for religious reasons.
  3. Urge the Canadian government and the U.S. Congress to fund rule-of-law programs, such as training and exchanges of lawyers and judges, and seminars on how to deal with religious workplace challenges and how to apply international legal and labor norms;
  4. Call upon the governments of the United States and Canada to condition the admission of China to the World Trade Organization (WTO) upon China's taking significant steps toward the elimination of religious persecution within its borders;
  5. Urge that Canadian and U.S. companies doing business in China develop a code of conduct for the protection of their workers' rights of freedom of expression, assembly, association, and religious practice within China;
  6. Support coalitions that speak out against and keep the public spotlight on the abuses against the Falun Gong practitioners, Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists, underground Christian churches, and other religious and ethnic minorities in China; and
  7. Encourage our congregations to work in interfaith coalitions to raise awareness of the state of religious liberties in China.