May 06, 2016 | “China’s severe religious freedom violations continued in 2015,” said a statement in the 2016 Annual Report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which was recently released and covers the period from February 1, 2015 to February 29, 2016.
USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission that reviews the facts and circumstances of religious freedom violations worldwide and makes policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress.
In its Key Finding on China, the report states, “While the Chinese government sought to further assert itself on the global stage, at home it pursued policies to diminish the voices of individuals and organizations advocating for human rights and genuine rule of law.”
“During the past year, as in recent years, the central and/or provincial governments continued to forcibly remove crosses and bulldoze churches; implement a discriminatory and at times violent crackdown on Uighur Muslims and Tibetan Buddhists and their rights; and harass, imprison, or otherwise detain Falun Gong practitioners, human rights defenders, and others.”
Therefore, the report stated, “Based on the continuation of this long-standing trend of religious freedom violations, USCIRF again recommends in 2016 that China be designated a ‘country of particular concern,’ or CPC, for its systematic, egregious, and ongoing abuses. The State Department has designated China as a CPC since 1999, most recently in July 2014.”
In its background on China, the report states, “The past year was marked by the Chinese government’s deliberate and unrelenting crackdown on human rights and dissent. This crackdown transpired while the government considered new laws to bolster its power and reach, such as a national security law enacted July 1 and a terrorism law adopted on December 28.”
The report briefly described China’s infringement of human rights, “During the past year, the government increased its targeting of human rights lawyers and dissidents, some of whom advocated for religious freedom or represented individuals of various beliefs. In July, authorities across China undertook a sweeping dragnet rounding up lawyers and human rights defenders, including religious freedom advocates, with nearly 300 arrested, detained, or disappeared. Many of these individuals came under government suspicion precisely because they chose to represent politically-undesirable religious groups, such as Uighur Muslims, unregistered Christian leaders and members, and Falun Gong practitioners. While most were released, the location of a few individuals remains unknown and additional detentions and arrests continue.”
“Among those criminally detained or facing charges of subversion or endangering state security are Wang Yu, Li Heping, and Zhang Kai, human rights lawyers known for defending Falun Gong practitioners, Christians, and others.”
The report includes a section on the persecution of Falun Gong: “In 2015, thousands of Falun Gong practitioners reportedly were arrested or sent to brainwashing centres or other detention facilities. Brainwashing centres are a form of extralegal detention known to involve acts of torture.”
The report highlighted the harvesting of organs from Falun Gong practitioners: “Based on statements from Chinese health officials, the long-standing practice of harvesting organs from prisoners was to end on January 1, 2015. However, many human rights advocates believe the practice continues. Imprisoned Falun Gong practitioners are particularly targeted for organ harvesting.”
The report also mentions incarcerated Falun Gong practitioners: “Li Chang, a former government official sentenced to prison for his involvement in a peaceful Falun Gong demonstration, is among the countless Falun Gong practitioners who remain imprisoned at the end of the reporting period. The Chinese government continued to deny Wang Zhiwen a passport or the ability to travel freely to receive proper medical care following the torture he endured during his 15 years in prison.” [Editor’s note: Both Li Chang and Wang Zhiwen were coordinators of Beijing Falun Dafa Study Association before July 20, 1999, when the Communist Party initiated the persecution of Falun Gong (also known as Falun Dafa).]
The report pointed out, “Chinese authorities denied a visa and barred entry into mainland China to Anastasia Lin, a human rights advocate and Falun Gong practitioner. As Miss World Canada 2015, Ms. Lin was scheduled to participate in the Miss World event held in China in December 2015.”