(Minghui.org) According to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) 2023 Annual Report released on May 1, 2023, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has continued to persecute faith groups including Falun Gong in the past year. In response to the ever-worsening human rights abuses in China, the commission urges the U.S. government to sanction CCP officials who have engaged in human rights violations.

“Throughout the past year, the U.S. government continued to condemn abuses of religious freedom and hold perpetrators accountable through targeted sanctions and other tools. Moving forward, the United States should take additional steps to support freedom of religion or belief around the world,” remarked Vice Chair Abraham Cooper at the press conference. “We urge Congress and the Executive Branch to implement the recommendations in USCIRF’s 2023 Annual Report to further advance this universal, fundamental human right.”

Abraham Cooper, Vice Chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), spoke during a press conference on May 1.

According to Cooper, China has suppressed the religious beliefs of Tibetan Buddhists, Christians, and Falun Gong practitioners. Some of those who have escaped China still face ongoing suppression. In the 2023 Annual Report, the USCIRF recommends that the State Department designate 17 countries–including China–as Countries of Particular Concern (CPCs) because these governments are involved in “systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations” of the right to religious freedom.

The CCP has long repressed religious freedom and in recent years has become increasingly hostile toward religions, implementing campaigns to “sinicise” them, according to the report. “These policies require religious groups to support the CCP, including by altering their religious teachings to conform to CCP ideology and policy,” explained the report.

The CCP government continued its persecution of Falun Gong and other groups. Citing information from the Minghui website, the report found, “In 2022, Falun Gong sources documented 7,331 cases of harassment and arrest, 633 prison sentences, and 172 deaths because of persecution.”

On November 30, 2022, the U.S. State Department redesignated China as a CPC and reimposed restrictions on the export of crime control or detection instruments or equipment to China.

In December 2022, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned over 40 individuals and entities for corruption or human rights abuses across nine countries. This sanction was based on Executive Order (E.O.) 13818, the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.

Among the sanctioned officials were Wu Yingjie (former Tibetan Party secretary between 2016 and 2021) and Zhang Hongbo (director of the Tibetan Public Security Bureau). Because of violating religious freedom and the persecution of Falun Gong, both Zhang and Tang Yong (former deputy director of the Chongqing Area Prisons) face visa restrictions to the U.S.

Due to the human rights abuse in China, USCIRF recommends: “Continue imposing sanctions to target Chinese officials and entities responsible for severe religious freedom violations, especially within the CCP’s UFWD (United Front Work Department), SARA (the State Administration for Religious Affairs), and the public security and state security apparatus.”

According to its website, USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan, U.S. federal government agency created by the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), as amended. It monitors the universal right to freedom of religion or belief abroad; makes policy recommendations to the President, Secretary of State, and Congress; and tracks the implementation of these recommendations.

In particular, USCIRF’s analysis is based on international standards. Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

USCIRF Annual Report: Persecution of Falun Gong Continues in China

USCIRF Human Rights Report: Falun Gong Practitioners Still Persecuted in China for Their Faith