Wednesday, July 22, 2015

More From the Congressional-Executive Commission on China: Hearings on "Religion With “Chinese Characteristics”: Persecution and Control in Xi Jinping’s China"

The Congressional-Executive Commission on China was created by the U.S. Congress in 2000 "with the legislative mandate to monitor human rights and the development of the rule of law in China, and to submit an annual report to the President and the Congress. The Commission consists of nine Senators, nine Members of the House of Representatives, and five senior Administration officials appointed by the President." (CECC About). It tends to serve as an excellent barometer of the thinking of political and academic elite sin the United States about issues touching on China and the official American line developed in connection with those issues. As such it is an important source of information about the way official and academic sectors think about China. The CECC FAQs provide useful information about the CECC. See CECC Frequently Asked Questions. As one can imagine many of the positions of the CECC are critical of current Chinese policies and institutions.

CECC has recently focused on recent police and other actions in China, especially the detention of certain high profile lawyers (see here). It's leaders, including Marco Rubio, an individual seeking nomination to stand as the representative of the Republican Party for President, have now focused on the issue of religion in China. The CECC has announced plans to hold hearings on "Religion With “Chinese Characteristics”: Persecution and Control in Xi Jinping’s China." The hearings appear meant to suggest both that China has approached the issue of the relationship between religion and the state differently from the West, and that this difference ought to be troubling when it affects the ability of the institutional apparatus of religions to control their government.  Whatever one thinks of the statement, it represents an important position of the United States with respect to these issues and is likely to figure in U.S. China relations going forward. 
The announcement of hearing and statement follows.

Representative Christopher Smith, Chairman and Senator Marco Rubio, Cochairman 
announce a hearing on
Religion With “Chinese Characteristics”: Persecution and Control in Xi Jinping’s China 
Thursday, July 23, 2015 
11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. 
Capitol Visitor’s Center, HVC 210 
The Communist Party continues to see religious groups as a potential threat, needing to be managed, controlled, or crushed. In fact, the Party issued guidelines in May prohibiting religious believers as members. President Xi Jinping said recently that religious groups must be free of “foreign influence,” loyal to the “socialist state,” and managed “by the law.” No faith group is exempt from state control. New laws issued this year view “cults” and strong religious adherence among Uyghur Muslims as national security problems, legitimizing draconian restrictions against this population. In the past year, crosses on Christian churches were torn down reportedly because they attracted too much attention. Expanded efforts were made to undermine the Dalai Lama’s influence among Tibetans and control the selection of Buddhist leaders. Falun Gong practitioners continue to face efforts to eradicate their spiritual practice, through torture, detention in ‘transformation centers,’ and organ harvesting from prisoners. Even lawyers who defend vulnerable religious groups and other “sensitive cases,” face disbarment, detention, and physical violence as evidenced by the recent crackdown on rights attorneys, many of whom had defended individuals targeted by the government for their religious beliefs and practices. 
In short, religious freedom restrictions are pervasive and widespread, affecting all of China’s diverse faith communities. How China accommodates its growing and vibrant religious communities is not only a paramount human rights concern, but may determine China’s future stability and prosperity. According to a 2015 study by the Pew Research Center, for example, countries with the highest levels of religious freedom have the lowest levels of religiously related violence. Additional academic research has revealed a correlation between religious freedom and economic development. 
This hearing will examine the restrictions faced by religious communities in China and will explore why protecting religious freedom matters for China’s future stability and prosperity. It will also seek recommendations for advancing this most basic of human rights, especially in the context of the scheduled September visit to Washington by President Xi. 
Rebiya Kadeer: President, the World Uyghur Congress 
Losang Gyatso: Service Chief, the Tibetan Service, Voice of America 
Bob Fu: President and Founder, ChinaAid 
Anastasia Lin: Actress, Human Rights Advocate, and Miss World Canada 2015 
This hearing will be webcast live here
Click here to download a copy of the Commission's full 2014 Annual Report. 
The Congressional-Executive Commission on China, established by the U.S.-China Relations Act of 2000 as China prepared to enter the World Trade Organization, is mandated by law to monitor human rights, including worker rights, and the development of the rule of law in China. The Commission by mandate also maintains a database of information on political prisoners in China—individuals who have been imprisoned by the Chinese government for exercising their civil and political rights under China's Constitution and laws or under China's international human rights obligations. All of the Commission's reporting and its Political Prisoner Database are available to the public online via the Commission's Web site,

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