An annual U.S. government report finds religious freedom under assault throughout the world, notably in what the State Department calls Countries of Particular Concern — China, Iran, North Korea among others.
“In China, state-sponsored repression against all religions continues to intensify. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is now ordering religious organizations to obey CCP leadership and infuse communist dogma into their teachings and practice of their faith,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a Wednesday press briefing on the release of the State Department’s 2019 Report on International Religious Freedom.
The report comes after U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order on June 2 to advance international religious freedom, instructing the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development to “develop a plan to prioritize international religious freedom” and to “budget at least $50 million per fiscal year for programs that advance international religious freedom.”
Countries of Particular Concern
On December 18, 2019, the State Department redesignated Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan as Countries of Particular Concern under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 for having engaged in or tolerated “systematic, ongoing, [and] egregious violations of religious freedom.”
In China, Wednesday’s report says, the CCP continues “to exercise control over religion and restrict the activities and personal freedom of religious adherents that it perceived as threatening state.” China has been designated as a Country of Particular Concern since 1999.
China has long denied the U.S. criticism, calling the accusations “wrong words and deeds” that slander China’s religious policies and the state of freedom of religious beliefs.
In past years after the U.S. released its reports, Chinese officials often asked the U.S. to abandon “prejudices” and “stop politicizing religious issues.”
U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback said Wednesday that the mass detentions of Uighurs in Xinjiang continues.
“The United States will also keep our focus on Moscow’s other human rights violations. Since 2015, Russia has conscripted thousands of Crimean men into its armed forces and imposed criminal penalties on those who do not comply. Russia must end its repression of those who oppose its occupation, release unjustly imprisoned Ukrainians, and return full control to the peninsula of Ukraine. Crimea is Ukraine,” said Pompeo.
The release Wednesday of the State Department’s religious freedom report comes amid anti-discrimination protests in the U.S. after the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, while he was in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in late May.
“I think this administration has and continues to support peaceful protesters wherever we find them,” said Pompeo, when asked by a reporter how the Trump administration can “so vocally” support protests in places like Hong Kong while being silent on some perceived police violence in the U.S.
“When we get something wrong here in the United States, when something as tragic and as awful as what happened to George Floyd takes place, the government responds. We saw both local law enforcement and our Department of Justice move very quickly to address the particular situation,” said Pompeo, as he defended the U.S. political system as one that encourages a “wide open debate” on issues that confront the nation.
Source: Voice of America