China-US relations

US congressional panel assails China for ‘severe religious freedom violations’ for detaining Christians and closing churches

  • Statement by bipartisan commission follows Beijing’s closure of three Protestant churches
  • Commission blames Xi Jinping for ‘devastating toll’ of efforts to ‘sinicise’ religion
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 December, 2018, 6:20am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 December, 2018, 8:32pm

A US congressional panel tasked with monitoring China’s human rights record on Wednesday blasted Beijing’s recent detention of Christians and blamed President Xi Jinping for actions that have taken a “devastating human toll”.

The statement by the bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China, which is chaired by Republican Senator Marco Rubio, follows Chinese authorities’ closing of three unregistered Protestant churches in the country. The senior Democrat on the panel is Senator Dianne Feinstein.

Xi’s “efforts to ‘sinicise’ religion are taking a devastating human toll”, said the commission, which was established shortly after the US normalised trade relations with Beijing in 2001 and is charged with producing an annual report monitoring human rights and rule of law in China.

“Chinese officials and others complicit in severe religious freedom violations must be held accountable and specific cases of those unjustly harassed, detained and imprisoned must be raised at the highest levels of government,” the commission said, alleging violations against followers of other faiths, including Tibetan Buddhists, Uygur Muslims and Falun Gong practitioners.

“As Christians around the world prepare to celebrate Christmas, China’s Christians and other faith communities are under siege and treated as enemies of the state for daring to worship and peacefully live out their faith,” the statement said.

The Rongguili Church in Guangzhou, which was founded by the late pastor Samuel Lamb Xiangao – one of the leading figures of China’s independent house church movement over the past four decades – was raided and closed last weekend.

According to a notice issued on Saturday by the Yuexiu district ethnic and religious affairs bureau, all activities at the church have been suspended by local authorities for violations of regulations governing religious affairs.

China shuts prominent Christian church, third this winter

Chengdu’s 500-member Early Rain Covenant Church was closed last week. The US commission said its pastor, Wang Yi, his wife, Jiang Rong, and roughly 100 church lay leaders and seminary students were detained in the raid.

The 1,500-member Zion Church in Beijing was shut in September.